How are you in trouble? 


Any political cartoon that is not objectively researched or based on facts will not stand the test of time or criticism and perhaps will not survive accusations under the law.  Unlike the investigative reporter, cartoonists use quite unique tools to accomplish their objectives.  Some of these tools are innuendo, satire, humor, and exaggeration.  For the tyrant, the most dangerous result of the cartoonist's toolbox is laughter.  Insecure heads of state, leaders of failing regimes, political parties that cannot manage their countries, and very often corrupt religious leaders, do not normally tolerate people laughing at them.  Anyone who rules through fear and threats will be the enemy of laughter.  A nation of people laughing is a dangerous condition for the tyrant, demonstrating to the world that the people do not fear their leader.  Most tyrannies can only maintain their tyranny through threat of harm, up to and including death. 

What is the nature of the threat against you? Have you gotten anonymous telephone calls warning you to stop drawing your critical cartoons?  Has some religious leader declared a fatwa against you because of a perceived insult to religion or a religious leader?  Have you been charged with a crime against the state, such as insulting the head of state or insulting the judiciary?  Have you been accused of some kind of sedition causing public disorder, or causing public disharmony between races, religions, or ethnic groups?  Have there been demonstrations in the streets of rowdy, violent people calling for your death because of a cartoon they felt was insulting to their ethnic or religious group?

All of these scenarios are quite familiar to CRNI.  These kinds of attacks against you as a cartoonist will have some similar elements and may require some very different elements in terms of your response and your developing a defensive strategy.

Twenty years ago the most common threats to CRNI cartoonist clients were charges of insult.  These usually came from the state or from an individual minister of state who may have been the subject of a cartoon that had been deemed to have "crossed the red line."

Today, those wishing to harm cartoonists include failed regimes, tyrants, religious fanatics and drug lords who cannot stand either the general population being informed about their treachery or that population laughing at them.  Charges from religious fanatics are complicated by their claims of a right to insulation from criticism because they speak for God.  They tend to equate criticism of religion or a religious figure with criticism of God.  This is very difficult to defend against.

Probably the reason you are in trouble is because you have overstepped the red line of cartooning when you turned your pen toward some entity that tolerates no sense of humor or criticism.


When you first make contact with CRNI (or any other supporting or helping organization) to report a threat made against you, you must be prepared to explain in a thorough and objective way, the nature of the threats made against you.  If you are charged with a particular crime, we must know exactly what crime, and we must know the court from which the charge was made.



The following is a suggested checklist for a preliminary report of an attack against you.  Use the most secure form of communication available to you. Our phone number in the United States is 703-543-8727, and our email address is

  • Your full name as it appears in your passport
  • What charges have been made against you.  Be specific.  Identify the actual legal codes that you may be accused of breaking, whether secular or religious.
  • Your cell phone number
  • Your e-mail address
  • Your website, blog, or other Internet addresses
  • A good quality copy of the cartoon that got you into trouble
  • Name and email address of any professional journalism association in your country
  • If you belong to any international cartooning association or syndicate, and if so, the contact information
  • A detailed description of any attack against you
  • If you been injured, photographs of your injuries
  • Copies of any newspaper reports of the attacks against you

Highly detailed information and regular reports to CRNI and other supporting organizations will be a regular theme in this manual.  Organizations like ours are helpless to know what is happening to you unless you give us absolutely detailed and highly accurate information.  Your credibility as a cartoonist worth defending depends on your being able to articulately describe what's going on around you, including an analysis of the danger and an accurate reading of any formal or even informal charges made against you.


The strongest force that can help you in times of danger is often public opinion.  That is also one of the best tools we have in developing a strategy to help you.  We must know exactly why you are in danger, and what the nature of that danger is.




  • What is the nature of the threat against you?  Religious, legal or physical?
  • Have you made a detailed report of the actions taken against you and communicated international assistance organization?

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