“You can ban my cartoons, but you cannot ban my mind”

Gagged exhibition

Stall at the Gagged exhibition, showcasing political cartoonists’ work

“This is a key to realms of wonder, but it’s also a deadly weapon, a weapon of mass distraction,” UK cartoonist Martin Rowson said, describing a pen, as he opened a discussion about censorship and repression of political cartoonists.

The event had planned a video link-up with Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, the Malaysian cartoonist better known as Zunar, but he was unable to attend. There have been reports of his arrest. Zunar uses his art to take a stand against corruption in Malaysian politics. The cartoonist is facing 10 sedition charges which are still pending trial. On these charges, Zunar faces 43 years in prison.

In his absence, a video of the cartoonist was shown in which he states, “you can ban my books, you can ban my cartoons, but you cannot ban my mind”.  

The Westminster Reference Library hosted a discussion on 28 November, during an exhibition of political cartoons: Gagged. Speakers included Index on Censorship’s Jodie Ginsberg, UK cartoonist Martin Rowson, Sudanese cartoonist Khalid Albaih, and Cartoonist Rights Network International’s Robert Russell.

Cartoonist Rowson and Albaih, currently based in Copenhagen, expressed the responsibility they feel working from a safe environment. They acknowledged the oppression of their colleagues and cited them as inspiration for the cartoons they continue to publish.

“I feel so guilty that I’m here doing this but at the same time, I have a lot of friends who are in jail, who were arrested, and who are really fighting that fight to say what they want to say … It’s something that hurts me everyday”, Albaih said. “Everyday that I’m walking down Copenhagen. It’s a beautiful city but I can’t enjoy it because most of my friends can’t even get a visa to go to the country next to them … People like Zunar, they’re incredible and they’re powerful and I look up to them. And I hope one day I can go back to my country and be able to do that without being scared that something will happen to my kids, you know?”

Ginsberg spoke on the importance of freedom of expression in the face of adversity and the reality of censorship in countries that believe they have “free speech”. “Censorship isn’t something that happens ‘over there’. It happens here and it happens on our doorstep.”

“I genuinely believe that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I also think … that many pens and many voices are even better. Oppressors win when they think their opponents are alone,” Ginsberg said. “We succeed when we demonstrate that it’s not the case.”

**The exhibition has now been extended to 7 December.

#BannedBooksWeek: How far can you go in speaking the unspeakable?


What is the place of the satirist in our age of controversies? The irreverent cartoonist Martin Rowson, of The Guardian and Index on Censorship magazine, joins publisher Joanna Prior of Penguin Random House for what promises to be a coruscating conversation; feathers will no doubt be ruffled.

This event is in association with Pembroke College as part of Banned Books Week and will be introduced by Index CEO Jodie Ginsberg.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Speakers:[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”89693″ img_size=”500×300″ alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]Martin Rowson is a British editorial cartoonist and writer. His genre is political satire and his style is scathing and graphic. He characterizes his work as “visual journalism”. His cartoons appear frequently in The Guardian, the Daily Mirror and Index on Censorship magazine.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”95149″ img_size=”500×300″ alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]Joanna Prior is the managing director of Penguin General Books, president of the Publishers Association, chair of the Women’s Prize for Fiction Board and was also listed in this years Debrett’s 500 which recognises Britain’s 500 most influential people[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”80210″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]Jody Ginsberg is the chief executive officer at Index on Censorship. A former Thomson Reuters Bureau chief for UK and Ireland, she has worked as a foreign correspondent in south and west Africa. Her advocacy roles include the London think tank Demos and Cambridge-based Camfed.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

When: Sunday 24 September 2017, 2-4pm BST
Where: Old Library, Pembroke College, Cambridge Map
Tickets: Free. Registration required via Eventbrite

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Satire on the front line: Aseem Trivedi and Martin Rowson

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]satire-on-the-front-line_main-image-1440x1027Indian human rights defender Aseem Trivedi has been arrested, imprisoned and shut out of mainstream Indian media for his powerful ‘Cartoons Against Corruption’ series. When Aseem was imprisoned in 2012, the Guardian’s celebrated political cartoonist Martin Rowson drew a cartoon condemning his arrest. Today, Aseem is a renowned advocate for detained human rights defenders around the world. He has drawn cartoons in solidarity with activists in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kashmir, and more. Aseem will join Martin in London to discuss, draw and debate freedom of expression and solidarity across borders.


Martin Rowson is an award-winning cartoonist whose work has appeared in the Guardian, the Daily Mirror, The Times, New Statesman, the Spectator, the Morning Star, the Scotsman, the Irish Times, Index on Censorship, Time Out and many more. His books include graphic novelisations of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. His collection of cartoons about the last government, The Coalition Book, won the Paddy Power Political Book Award for Political Humour & Satire. Martin is chairman of the British Cartoonists’ Association and in 2001 was appointed Cartoonist Laureate for London by Ken Livingstone.

Martin is on Twitter @MartinRowson.

Aseem Trivedi is an Indian cartoonist and human rights defender. He played a leading role in India’s 2010 anti-corruption movement with his ‘Cartoons Against Corruption’,  leading to the government suspending his website, and charging him with sedition, breaching the IT Act, and ‘insulting’ national symbols. After three days in prison, Aseem launched a campaign against the legislation used to target him and other activists, and went on hunger strike demanding its repeal. In 2015, India’s Supreme Court struck down the legislation. Aseem has since created a comic magazine highlighting human rights defenders around the world.  He still faces up to three years in prison for ‘insulting’ the government through his art.

Aseem is on Twitter @aseem_trivedi

Presented By: English PEN in partnership with Front Line Defenders, PEN International and Index on Censorship

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When: Friday 18 Nov, 6:30pm
Where: 60 Farringdon Rd, London EC1R 3GA
Tickets: From £3 from Free Word Centre


6 Aug: What’s the taboo? at Wilderness


Join Index on Censorship for a fast and furious quiz exploring what you can and can’t say in today’s society.

Watch our panelists struggle to evade the censor, cast your own vote on where to draw the line, and expect plenty of no-go subjects to come out from the shadows.

Featuring Guardian and Index on Censorship cartoonist Martin Rowson, comedian Athena Kugblenu, theatre-maker Nadia Latif, director of Homegrown, and journalist Ian Dunt of politics.co.uk and Erotic Review.

When: 6 Aug 2016, 2.10pm
Where: The Forum, Wilderness, Oxfordshire
Tickets: From the Wilderness site

Wilderness takes place on 4 – 7 August 2016, at Cornbury Park set in Oxfordshire.