Courage Award

"The Ink of a scholar is more precious than the blood of a martyr."
-The Prophet Mohammad

Cartoon by Steve Benson, Arizona Republic

Each year CRNI gives its Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning to a cartoonist in great danger or who has demonstrated exceptional courage in the exercise of free speech rights.

Our policy on the Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning:

CRNI is a human rights organization focused on rights of editorial cartoonists.  CRNI is not a cartooning organization.  We work from the UN Declaration of Human Rights Article 19 which grants all the right to express themselves freely without fear or censorship.

Each year we give a Courage Award to a cartoonist who is in danger for merely expressing his or her free speech rights.  We do not award any cartoonists who advocate violence or hate.

We do not award a cartoon.  We make no comment on the quality of, or intent of, a specific cartoon.  We award a cartoonist in danger. 

Each year our Board of Directors choses the recipient of the Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning from the nominated cartoonists.  Anyone can nominate a candidate for the Award.  And we strongly encourage you to nominate a cartoonist in danger that you learned about from our website or from somewhere else.  You can nominate a cartoonist on the front lines of free speech by simply writing a letter or an email to:

Dr. Robert Russell
Executive Director
Cartoonists Rights Network International
P.O. Box 7272
Fairfax Station, VA 22039


In your letter or email please give the name of the cartoonist you believe deserves consideration for the Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning and a brief explanation supporting your nomination. 

The nomination window  for the 2012 Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning has closed.  Nominations for the 2013 Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning are now being accepted. 

From time to time we also award a Special Commendation to non-cartoonists who work diligently to promote the safety and/or free speech rights of cartoonists. 

The recipient of the 2011 Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning is Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, aka, Zunar.  Zunar delivered his speech on July 7th in St. Petersburg, Florida.  The Courage Award was presented to Zunar by CRNI President Joel Pett. 



Award winners by year:

Akram Raslan, Syria 2013 Mr. Raslan was arrested by Syrian authorities at the offices of his newspaper, Al-Fida in the city of Hama, Syria on Octorber 2, 2012.  He has been held incommunicado since then.  A reliable source reports that he has been tortured and abused, deprived of any legal counsel, and is now to be put on trial in a special court that has been created for enemies of the state. The charges against him are derived from his cartoons that have been critical of Pres. Bashir al-Assad and his conduct of the war currently raging in Syria. Learn about Raslan' s story and plight in our recent article, The 13th Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning for 2013. 

Ali Ferzat, Syria, and Aseem Trivedi, India 2012 To quote CRNI Board Member Matt Wuerker, the editorial cartoonist for, from Time magazine's list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, "Ali Ferzat, 60, spent years drawing insightful cartoons, mostly staying between the prescribed lines of Syria's state-sanctioned media.  But confronted with the regime's increasing brutality, he embraced the democracy movement and turned his lampoons on President Bashar Assad directly."  For this, thugs were ordered to send Ali a message.  They brutally beat him up, intentionally breaking both his hands.  After the attack, Ali made a second courageous and potentially life-threatening decision.  He decided to make public what the Assad Regime had done to him.  Aseem Trivedi, a young cartoonist from India, like Ali Ferzat, made two courageous decisions.  First, in an atmosphere of increasing censorship and repression in the world's largest democracy, Aseem launched the Cartoons Against Corruption website.  In an effort to mobilize his fellow citizens against India's pervasive political corruption, Aseem filled this site with his anti-corruption cartoons.  After being charged with treason and insulting national symbols, Aseem made his second courageous act.  Despite the charges and threats of additional charges, he has taken a leadership role in India's emerging free speech movement.  Joining forces with other free speech activists, Aseem has launched an online freedom of expression campaign called Save Your Voice: A Movement Against Web Censorship.

Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, aka Zunar, Malaysia 2011  Zunar endured 10 years of constant harassment and censorship by the state for cartoons critical of senior government officials.  The Malaysian government has seized Zunar's books and magazines, which also feature work by other cartoonists.  The factories producing his titles have been raided and vendors have been warned not to sell his titles.  Zunar has been detained and threatened with a charge of sedition.  He has fought back by initiating legal challenges to his detention and to the seizing of his titles.  Learn more about Zunar and his struggle in the Oceania/East Asia section of our Art to Die For collection.   

Mana Neyestani, Iran 2010  Mana was subjected to jail time and death threats for a cartoon that, in our opinion, unintentionally offended the Azeri community in Iran.  Despite assuring the Azeri community that he had not intended to offend anyone, Mana was forced to flee for his life.  Special commendation was given to Mrs. Sandya Eknaligoda of Sri Lanka for her persistent pressure brought to bear on the Sri Lankan government to account for the disappearance of her cartoonist husband Prageeth.  Learn more about Mana and the struggles he and his wife have endured in the Middle East/North Africa section of our Art to Die For collection.  And learn the story of Sandya's brave protest in the South Asia section of our Art to Die For collection. 

Mario Robles, Mexico 2009  Mario was beaten up in broad daylight for daring to draw cartoons critical of the governor of Oaxaca and the local ruling party.  During the assault he was told he would be eliminated if he continued.  Despite the assault and the death threat, Mario continued to draw such cartoons.  Learn of Mario's tremendous courage in the Americas section of our Art to Die For collection. 

Baha Boukhari, Palestine 2008  Baha was threatened and his newspaper was shut down by the Fatah movement for a cartoon that criticized the party's governing style.  Fatah even tried to label him anti-Islamic.  He didn't back down.  Fatah backed down after the local community literally rallied for Baha and the free speech rights of every Palestinian.  

Jonathan Shapiro, aka Zapiro, South Africa 2007  For a series of cartoons highlighting then Vice President Jacob Zuma's colorful career, Zapiro was sued by Zuma for a staggering amount of money and Zapiro and his family were threatened by unknown individuals.  Some of the charges have been dropped by President Jacob Zuma.  But some of the charges are still pending.  Learn more about Jonathan's unwavering stand in our Sub-Sarahan section of our Art to Die For collection.

The 12 Danish Cartoonists,  Denmark, and, Ali Dilem, Algeria 2006  The 12 Danish Cartoonists have been forced into protective hiding.  Religious extremists are determined to kill them for drawing the Muslim prophet Mohammed.  Kurt Westergaard's cartoon of the prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban is the most controversial and fought over cartoon image in modern times.  In Algeria, Ali Dilem has up to 15 years of prison time pending against him for 10 years of cartoons that have moved the Red Line of censorship significantly towards more freedom of speech.  Learn more about the Danish Cartoon Controversy and the attacks to Kurt Westergaard in our Western Europe section of our  Art to Die For collection.

Musa Kart, Turkey 2005  Musa and his newspaper were sued by Prime Minister Recep Erdogan for a cartoon of the Prime Minister depicting him as a kitten entangled in a ball of yarn.  The implication was that the Prime Minister was clumsily entangled in politics.  The courts eventually agreed that Musa's opinion did not amount to libel.  Learn more about Musa's ultimately inspiring story in our Eastern Europe section of our Art to Die For collection. 

Tony Namate, Zimbabwe 2004  Tony was threatened, harassed and forced to leave several cartooning positions by high ranking administration officials.  He and many of his newspaper colleagues however continued to defy excessive government censorship regulations.

2003 no award given.

Paul Nyemb Popoli, Cameroon 2002  Paul was threatened with death and forced to flee into exile for a cartoon critical of the Head of State's wife.  Learn more about Popoli's persistence in our Sub-Sarahan section of our Art to Die For collection.  

Nikahang Kowsar, Iran 2001  Nik was subjected to death threats and was threatened with a long prison term for a cartoon that criticized a politically influencial cleric.  After spending four days in prison, Nik fled the country.

Essam Hanafy, Egypt 2000  Essam was arrested, fined, and sentenced to prison for a cartoon that criticized the Minister of Agriculture. 

Dogan Guzel, Turkey 1999  Dogan received a four-year prison sentence for drawing a cartoon that called the state "weak" and for publishing his cartoons in the Kurdish language.  He served one year of that sentence.  Learn about Dogan's plight in our Eastern Europe section of our Art to Die For collection.