Baha Boukhari, prominent cartoonist for a number of Palestinian journals and for Al-Ayyam newspaper since 1999, has died in Ramallah at the age of 71. In 2008, a Hamas-run court ordered Al-Ayyam banned from the Gaza Strip because of a Boukhari cartoon mocking Hamas parliamentarians. The court had, according to Palestinian Chronicle, found the cartoon “defamatory, disrespectful and bordering on blasphemous.” The court also ordered suspended jail sentences and fines against Boukhari, the newspaper’s editor, Akram Haniyeh, and the paper’s Gaza distributor. The attempted censorship of Boukhari was met with public demonstrations in the cartoonist’s defence. That year, Baha Boukhari was named winner of CRNI’s Courage in Editorial Cartooning award.
“Baha at that time became a central figure in Palestine’s ever changing love/hate affair with free speech,” CRNI’s Director Bro Russell remembers. “When he was attacked and charged with blasphemy, the human rights and free speech community took to the streets in a no compromise demonstration of support for Baha, but also an affirmation of Palestinians’ commitment to keep their access to ideas and opinion open and free. We enjoyed knowing Baha when he was in the US to accept his award, and we send our heart felt condolences to his family.”
Boukhari was a founding member of Cartooning For Peace in 2006. He was one of the cartoonists profiled in the 2014 documentary Cartoonists: Footsoldiers For Democracy. Cartooning for Peace writes: “Baha Boukhari was an incredible artist and a strong supporter of peace in the Middle East and freedom of expression. We will deeply miss him.”
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