Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

February 17, 2014

Algerian Cartoonist Djamel Ghanem Faces 18 Months In Jail For Cartoon Depicting Algerian President

A young cartoonist named Djamel Ghanem working in his native Algeria apparently faces a jail sentence for a cartoon depicting that country's president, a report ripped across mostly French-language newswires the last week.

This is actually fairly far along. First thing that jumps out: it's an unpublished cartoon. Second: his former employer, a regime-fiendly newspaper called La Voix de L'Oranie, apparently brought the suit. Third, the cartoon didn't depict the president but mocked the implications of Abdelaziz Bouteflika seeking a fourth term by suggesting it infantalizes voters. Fourth, Ghanem hasn't been able to find work since -- he claims one paper was warned away from him -- and has even had difficulty finding a lawyer able to represent him in court.

The cartoon appeared before the court where he was and asked to admit that this was meant to insult the president, something denied by the cartoonist. There has been some in non-Algerian media and on-line, so clearly they're hoping for some international pressure for this bizarre turn of events, which stinks from an idea of a law that makes it impossible to criticize the policies of an elected official all the way to the fact that Ghanem is now basically on the sidelines and unable to make comics that might have an effect on the current political landscape. As one on-line petition points out, this law can be applied to anyone criticizing any number of official figures.

I don't see any reason you couldn't sign your name to this petition, but my French isn't always great. Here's an interview which contributed to the English-language piece to which I linked above.

I can't find the cartoon. There may be a little bit of dissonance here: this article suggests a year rather than 18 months is in question and some sort of pay issue may be involved. Still, if what is claimed for this case is even half-true, it's an ugly thing.
posted 7:55 am PST | Permalink

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