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

March 4, 2014

Cartoonist Djamel Ghanem's Verdict Pushed To March 11

This translated international wire story indicates the Algerian court deciding on a case against the cartoonist Djamel Ghanem for a cartoon featuring that country's president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The reason? Absentee judge, the cartoonist's lawyer reported. Ghanem faces up to 18 months in jail and a small fine of about $400 USD for "insulting the president of the republic."

A few things to remember about this one. One is that the cartoonist's own newspaper employer filed the case against him. Two is that the cartoon was never published (it was set for publication in September). Third, the insult was basically noting that there might be worries for the 77-year-old to run again for office: he is running again for office, he is 77, and he had a stroke last year, spending three months in the hospital.

This potential verdict would be super-awful in and of itself, but it also represents a worldwide trend now of about 15 years, particularly in those African and European countries that have an active editorial cartooning culture, for sitting office-holders to use the courts to block or sue-for-reprisal editorial cartoonists that dare criticize them or their policies. One hopes the court will see reason in this case, and even if that ends up be blessedly so, let's hope many of the courts system begin to walk away from this wholly noxious barrier to reasonable free speech.
posted 2:05 am PST | Permalink

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