Introduction

 

Cartoonists Rights Network International would like to thank the DOEN Foundation in the Netherlands for their generous support and patience in the production of this Safety Manual for Political Cartoonists.  

While many human rights and free speech organizations have produced safety manuals for journalists, they are usually oriented towards the international print journalist traveling in areas of danger.   For the political cartoon journalist who may or may not be working as a full-time cartoonist, there is precious little information designed for their situations.  

During our 20 plus years of experience working with cartoonists in trouble, we have found one outstanding feature common to many of the incidents of threats, legal charges, digital attacks and illegal attempts at censorship: the cartoonist is usually completely taken by surprise.  When the weight of powerful government ministries or fundamentalist religious influences comes crashing down on the shoulders of a poor struggling cartoonist, it can be as emotionally devastating as it is physically threatening.  When these things happen, a person's life is changed forever.

Unlike the investigative reporter digging into the truth of a corrupt politician or a war correspondent shot at or injured during a battle or a photojournalist being in the wrong place at the wrong time, cartoonists usually don't expect to be attacked. After all, the conventional wisdom says, “It's just a cartoon.”

It's in the hours, days, and perhaps weeks after either a legal or physical attack that the cartoonist begins to feel isolated, abandoned, and with no idea where to turn for help saving his or her life or protecting the family.  The most dangerous enemy during a time like this is the paralyzing fear that emotional trauma can cause.  Fear prevents a person from making decisions.  It makes seeing one’s predicament objectively almost impossible.  Most importantly, trauma can prevent a cartoonist from developing a sound, solid strategy of defense.  It can prevent a cartoonist from taking action.

Because cartoonists are more isolated and disconnected from the many journalism-helping networks and organizations available to print journalists, the feeling of isolation and abandonment among cartoonists can be much deeper.

This manual is meant as a first source of reference and advice to the individual editorial cartoonist who finds himself or herself in danger.  Unlike other manuals that are often written for investigative reporters or war correspondents visiting a dangerous war zone, this manual is written for cartoonists who have spent their lives in the same country that is suddenly turning against them.

We want cartoonists to understand the dynamics of trauma, the need for developing a strategy, and the need to understand and know the resources available to help them in their hour of greatest need.

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