The popular cartoonist, known as president of the Jordanian Cartoonists’ Association and for his participation in international events, is accused of “insulting an Arab country” under cybercrime law.
• UPDATE AUGUST 30TH: HAJJAJ RELEASED ON BAIL, DETAILS TO FOLLOW •
As reported by those in the region, Emad Hajjaj was arrested late on August 26th within hours of a cartoon of his appearing online, including at The New Arab news outlet, and despite a court appearance today he has yet to be granted bail.
Reaction has been swift, particularly among Arabic-speaking cartoonists and local journalists who are staging protests.
Earlier this year we wrote to the Jordanian embassy in the United States seeking assurances about another cartoonist, and at that time pointed out that the country’s constitution enshrines freedom of opinion […] in writing, or by means of photographic representation and other forms of expression, provided that such does not violate the law. That last clause is telling.
“As a matter of pure intellectual curiosity I’m almost inclined to hear prosecutors’ arguments about Emad’s cartoon and how its portrayal of Israel’s last minute reversal on the F-35 fighter deal between the USA and UAE – in other words, a cartoon very easily read as sympathetic to the injured party – constitutes a criminal insult to an Arab state. But life is too short. The Kingdom of Jordan should instead cease this embarrassing display immediately. The pictures from Amman today tell their own story. Everyone is wearing masks. There’s never a good time for a vexatious and needless lawsuit but the midst of a pandemic is definitely not it.”Terry Anderson, Executive Director, CRNI
Daryl Cagle has written with great warmth about his friend, pointing out that within a small community like the world’s cartoonists few of us are more than a degree or two of separation away, no matter the geography. Emad collaborated with CRNI last year at the Cartooning Global Forum/ États Généraux du Dessin de Presse / المنتدى العام لرسوم الصحف in Paris.
We call upon the Jordanian authorities to discount whatever sentiments they think have been bruised by this cartoon and, as the vice-chair of the International Press Institute puts it, “join the club of democratic nations […] develop thick skin and end the culture of protecting themselves and each other from criticism”. There is no meaningful damage done to anyone by Emad Hajjaj’s cartoon and even if there were it would hardly be enough to derail the diplomatic processes between sovereign states. Let him go.