Index on Censorship joins Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) to report that the internationally acclaimed cartoonist Musa Kart is again a prisoner this World Press Freedom Day.
In November 2016 Musa Kart was one of a number of staff from the Cumhuriyet newspaper arrested without charge. He and his colleagues’ subsequent months in Silivri prison would be described as unlawful by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, “being in contravention of articles 10, 11 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of articles 14, 15 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”.
In April 2017 he was formally indicted with “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member” and “abusing trust”, prosecutors stipulating a maximum sentence of twenty-nine years. His trial began in July 2017. His funny, excoriating opening statement is worth reading in full.
After twelve months of court proceedings (arduous litigation being a well-worn censorious tactic) Kart was eventually found guilty and sentenced to three years and nine months. The appeals lodged on behalf of all those who received shorter sentences during the Cumhuriyet trials failed in February this year. Kart was informed he would be required to go to prison for one year and sixteen days.
On April 25th he and five colleagues – board members Önder Çelik and M.Kemal Güngör, news director Hakan Kara, columnist Güray Öz and financial officer Emre İper – decided to hand themselves in at Kandıra prison, a typically dignified and brave gesture.
Musa’s ultimate incarceration represents the culmination of fifteen years of persecution by then prime minister, now President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who twice tried and twice failed to use court action to silence the cartoonist in 2005 and 2014.
As those who have followed recent history in Turkey will be aware, the attempted coup of July 2016 and the subsequent state of emergency provided Erdoğan the pretext required to round up many of his perceived enemies in academia, local government, the military, press and media. His victory in the April 2017 referendum, granting the president greater powers, and subsequent re-election in 2018 have only entrenched his position. In survey after survey Turkey remains the world’s number one jailer of journalists.
Kart is a past winner of CRNI’s Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award, was given the Cartooning For Peace Swiss Foundation’s Prix International du Dessin de Presse last year and is currently the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Maison du Dessin de Presse, Morges. He formally retired from cartooning in December 2017.
The undersigned organizations join Index and CRNI in calling for the immediate release of Musa Kart and his five courageous colleagues and the dismissal of all charges against the criminalised former staff of Cumhuriyet. This World Press Freedom Day we express our solidarity with all those suffering in the protracted and unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey, and call for its end.
In this special edition of the Index on Censorship podcast, we celebrate the winners of the Freedom of Expression Awards 2019. Mimi Mefo, a leading voice in exposing the mistreatment of Cameroonian journalists, talks about press freedom in her country; Ritu Gairola, from Cartoonists Rights Network International, discusses why it is effective for cartoonists to use humour to convey political messages; Carolina Botero, from Fundación Karisma, reveals the online threats we should all know about; and Zehra Dogan*, a Kurdish painter and journalist, opens up about finding the courage to continue her work during her imprisonment.
Afterwards, we catch up with Terry Anderson, deputy executive director of CRNI, to learn more about threats to cartoonists worldwide.
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/dtbX0d7pO1A”][vc_column_text]Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) is a small organisation with a big impact: monitoring threats and abuses against editorial cartoonists worldwide. Marshalling an impressive worldwide network, CRNI helps to focus international attention on cases in which cartoonists are persecuted and put pressure on the persecutors. CRNI tracks censorship, fines, penalties and physical intimidation – including of family members, assault, imprisonment and even assassinations. Once a threat is detected, CRNI often partners with other human rights organisations to maximise the pressure and impact of a campaign to protect the cartoonist and confront those who seek to censor political cartoonists.[/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1554821613447-1229817e-a75d-10″ taxonomies=”31720, 6777″][vc_custom_heading text=”2019 Fellows” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:center” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][awards_fellows years=”2019″ color=”#db3b65″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtbX0d7pO1A”][vc_column_text]Terry Anderson, deputy executive director of Cartoonists Rights Network International, accepted the award on its behalf.
Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished judges, new friends at Index on Censorship,
To accept this award and enter into fellowship with you is an honour intensified by the stature of the other nominees and recipients. On behalf of the CRNI board of directors and our regional reps around the world, thank you.
Those of us concerned with freedom of expression care about cartoonists because we are a societal safety-valve, expressing dissatisfaction about all the injustices and irritants of the world bluntly yet harmlessly, communicating an idea that is consumed in a matter of seconds. This immediacy gives cartoons their sensation of impudence. They are opinion pieces, not reportage. Nonetheless humour falls flat without veracity. Thus we look to cartoonists not for nuanced analysis of policy but to reveal deeper truths and it is for this reason that those in power have cause to fear them. Like virtually no other profession the cartoonist makes it their business to remind the citizenry that the emperor is naked. If they are not safe to say so, we are all diminished.
CRNI has at times had to make do with a skeleton crew and empty coffers even while trying to assist vulnerable practitioners on the other side of the planet and contend with the rising tide of authoritarianism and extremism well-understood by all rights defenders. To receive a plaudit is pleasant indeed, but for us the real prize is a year of fellowship that we hope will prove transformative to our profile and capacity.
I would like to mention some names. Two of our own award-winning cartoonists are with us: Zunar, a political cartoonist who faced 43 years in prison for criticising the Malaysian government, and Eaten Fish, an Iranian cartoonist who spent four years in a refugee detention camp – please do talk to them both this evening and hear their stories.
Two of our most important allies, the UK’s Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation & the International Cities of Refuge Network are represented, thank you. This fellowship recognises CRNI’s campaigning in particular and if we have had any success in this regard it’s due to the tireless efforts of our comms officer Patricia Bargh who stepped down last year. Finally I want to extend thanks on behalf of our founder director Dr Robert Russell who cannot cross the miles between us but rest assured will have the award hand-delivered as soon as possible.