“In the eyes of some Big Ag cannot be criticized or poked fun at.” That’s what an editor told cartoonist Rick Friday before firing the 21-year veteran of Iowa’s Farm News. Friday was fired after an unspecified seed company yanked advertising from the Des Moines based weekly following a Friday cartoon critical of the Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer and John Deere companies.
The cartoon in question highlights the disparity between farmers’ earnings and the salaries of the heads of agricultural seed and supply companies Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer and John Deere. The CEOs of those three corporations make more money per annum than 2,129 Iowa farmers combined, the cartoon notes.
In a Facebook post following his firing, Friday wrote that the incident showed “how fragile our rights to free speech and free press really are in the country.” Columbia Journalism Review columnist Jack Murtha writes: “Friday’s cartoon is the kind of strong, straightforward journalism that Iowa farmers should expect from their newspaper. What good is Farm News if it lacks the guts to take on issues that matter most to its readers?”
Incidents of corporate censorship include the recent firing of African cartoonist Gado and the termination of Bulgarian animator Chavdor Nikolov. In 2012, Canadian cartoonist Dan Murphy claimed corporate pressure caused the removal of an animated parody of an Alberta-based pipeline company from his newspaper’s website.
Farm News publisher Larry Bushman’s only comment following the incident was that Friday’s termination was an “editorial decision.”