As part of World Press Freedom Day organized by UNESCO Cartooning for Peace has brought together 184 African and International press cartoonists from 64 countries to Addis Ababa.
Addressing members of young journalists working for the Youth Times newsroom, President of Cartooning for Peace, Jean Plantu, said the group is an international network of cartoonists committed to the promotion of freedom of expression, human rights, the environment, and mutual respect among people from different cultures.
“Cartoonists constitute real barometers of freedom and they help in making bridges across different cultures,” Plantu said. “We are here at the World Press Freedom Conference to learn from each other and are happy to draw experiences from cartoonists coming from different parts of the world.”
A Malaysian political cartoonist, Zunar, who is working to expose corruption and abuse of power committed by his county’s government briefly shared his experience.
He explained the challenges he faced as a result of the strong and critical messages he communicated with his cartoons. He has been in jail five times and had faced nine charges which accounted for 20 years of imprisonment but all the charges were dropped when there was change in government in Malesia in 2018.
“Talent is not a gift, it is a responsibility,” Zunar said. “The cartoonist must shoulder that responsibility to serve the public.”
A political cartoonist from Nigeria, Tayo Fatunia, encouraged young and coming up journalists to be brave and never be discouraged when they are faced with slammed doors.
“If your opinion is supressed, go somewhere else where your opinion is accepted,” he said while reflecting on the early days of his career.
He also said a cartoonists should promote mutual understanding and peace, and equality of all human beings. He said they should refrain from aggravating sensitive situations through their work.
A female cartoonist from Sudan, Alaa Satir, explained being a female and a cartoonist at the same time is not an easy task.
She noted that there is a certain level of discrimination based on gender. She said when male cartoonists present their work, they are evaluated only by the work they have presented. But when female cartoonists present their talent and work, they are not evaluated by their work alone but also by their gender.
“There are some people who easily undermine your work for no particular reason, if you are a female,” she said. “I believe female cartoonists have to push hard to show our strength and talent.”
An Ethiopian cartoonist, Elias Areda, shared his view on the experience of Ethiopian cartoonists. He reflected on the challenges of working in a culturally diverse society.
“We need to be responsible and sensitive to people and situations taking place in our context,” he said. “Cartoonists should not take sides when communicating with the public. They should be part of the solution than the problem. We need to have real grasp of realities and know how to present them to the public with a sense of providing diversified views of situations.”