Take action: develop a plan


When you have been attacked physically, been arrested, or charged with a crime, you must respond to the threat made against you.  After all, a threat made against you is indirectly made against your family as well.  Your best defense is a well-thought-out, networked plan of action.  Your plan of action must be built around your strategy of what you want to accomplish.  Do you want to pressure the government to drop charges against you?  Do you want to raise international awareness about what is happening to you?  Do you want to stand and fight with even more powerful cartoons?     

A plan of action is a step-by-step guideline that all the individuals and organizations that wish to help you can follow to get you out of trouble.  After you have filled out and filed the first report (See above.), you must start discussing a plan that all can participate in and understand.  That includes your friends, your lawyers, and the helping organizations that you have chosen.  Each player in your plan of action will have specific roles and responsibilities. A plan might include:

  • reporting to international human rights organizations on what is happening to you,
  • instructing your own family on what to do if you are arrested,
  • finding and securing a safe house,
  • seeking the guidance of a good human rights lawyer, and,
  • exploring if some good-faith negotiations with those attacking you might result in the crisis being resolved.   

All the players must be trusted, and all the players must know generally the responsibilities of the other people in your plan of action.  You are the central piece of this plan, and if you are not in jail or otherwise detained or in the hospital, then you must be prepared to be the leader of your plan of action.  No one knows more about your situation than you do.  

A plan or a strategy is a pathway out of trouble.  The plan will change over time as your adversaries move and take possible new actions against you.  Your plan must be flexible and change as your adversaries’ actions change.  Everyone in the plan must know about these changes as they happen.

You must have someone close to you who will take over leadership of your plan if you have been detained or hospitalized or if you are somehow not able to direct your plan yourself.  Any cartoonist who draws cartoons that could in any way be found offensive to some superior powers must anticipate the need for a plan of action even before anything negative happens.  Your family members must be part of your plan.  Your lawyers must have a major input on your plan, and the helping organizations outside and inside the country must also be involved and active participants in your plan of action to get you out of trouble.

The first step to a good plan is for you and your family to sit down with your lawyers and evaluate all of your resources and all of your strengths.  You should then evaluate what the weaknesses are of those people who seek to harm you.  You will find that your resources are very diverse, and that each individual resource, institution, or individual in your network can probably contribute something unique to your plan of action.  One of your friends might be a very good journalist who can write articles for a newspaper.  Another friend may be a member of a journalism organization that could come to your defense.  Your lawyer will be able to identify areas of the law that can be invoked to protect you from the people who would censor your work.  International organizations can write letters to ambassadors, to the head of state, even to the chief justice to ask for charges to be dropped.  If you are under contract with a newspaper, the publisher may be willing to uncover why you have been attacked.  Traditionally in journalism, the newspaper you work for is ethically bound to protect your free speech rights.  If you work regularly with a newspaper or publisher, it must be called upon to come to your aid.  Protecting your free speech rights is the same as protecting the free speech rights of your newspaper.  Publishers understand that it is in their best interest to protect your rights.

You really have resources all around you.  But when you are afraid or when you have been traumatized, it will be difficult to realize how many resources you have.  For instance, friendly religious leaders that you may be associated with might be a resource that you can use.

You are really much more powerful than you ever imagined.  When you have been illegally or unfairly attacked and your free speech rights denied, it is time for you to realize this fact of life.

A good plan to get out of trouble is a result of a lot of heads coming together trying to solve a single problem with a good understanding of what all the resources are and what the challenges will be.

Trying to coordinate the efforts of a number of international institutions, a number of friends, and a variety of local institutions and media outlets is a full-time job in itself.  A close colleague or an attorney should be entrusted with managing the message with all these varieties of players who are all working in your support.


  • Make decisions and take action.
  • Develop a plan with trusted members of your support network.

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