Respond to cartoonists’ growing fear of criminalisation

UNESCO: Could you present yourself and introduce how you become committed to promoting media freedom?

Terry Anderson: “I’m a cartoonist and artists’ rights activist based in Scotland. I became aware of Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) several years ago, especially their campaigns on behalf of Musa Kart in Turkey and Zunar in Malaysia. After the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015 CRNI sought to recruit more representatives and advisors in Europe and elsewhere. I was invited to join their board of directors. Last year CRNI’s founder Dr Robert Russell retired after twenty years of leadership and I assumed the role of Executive Director.”

UNESCO: What is the mission of the Organization you are working for?

TA: “CRNI is a human rights organisation concerned solely with cartoonists whose freedoms of expression are threatened. When I first got involved there was marked anxiety about terrorism but today – and emphatically so after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic – the chief threat reported to us is the potential for criminalisation, especially under authoritarian and populist regimes.”

UNESCO: What will you do thanks to the grant by the Global Media Defence Fund?

TA: “With assistance from the UNESCO Global Media Defence Fund, CRNI will seek to respond to the cartoonist community’s renewed and growing fear of criminalisation by bolstering our existing network of Regional Representatives with a new strand made up of Legal Experts based around the world.”

UNESCO: What will be the impact of this action? (please be specific, and if possible, give also an estimation of the number of journalists/media professionals supported)

TA: “Reliable and rapid legal assistance will make a massive difference to the cartoonists within CRNI’s client base who are often practitioners of limited means and, increasingly, not protected by the patronage of a media outlet. In addition the ability to authoritatively speak out for reforms that counter legislative threats to cartoonists’ freedom of expression, and even contribute to new legal protections in furtherance of that mission, will make CRNI an organization at the vanguard of the struggle rather than merely awaiting a cartoonist to report that they have been targeted.”

UNESCO: Any suggestions/recommendations you would like to make to UNESCO as administrator of this Fund and to its donors?

TA: “Much of the fund’s work will, I’m sure, be directed to support hard news and without question journalists face severe safety threats with far greater regularity than cartoonists. With that said, I would ask that those media workers producing content that on its face may seem less essential – commentary rather than analysis, satire rather than reportage – be afforded the same measures of protection. In the words of Musa Kart, who stood trial alongside many colleagues from the Cumhuriyet newspaper: ” Courageous and independent view points that have broken free of cliché and standardised forms are what make for a true and effective cartoon […] the role of humour and of cartoons is to categorically destroy taboo. For that reason, those opposed to democracy do not like humorists and humorists, likewise, have no time for structures that worship violence […] In actual fact, caricature is synonymous with critical thought.”

Interview series: Stories of media defence put into action

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