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

September 28, 2011

Turkish Cartoonist Faces Jail Term For “Renouncing God” Message


Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be in the midst of a big-time splash on the world stage as a kind of economic success story alternative-to-Iran leader of/spokesman for the secular Muslim world, but his country's record for treating free speech in cartoon form continues its recent deterioration. International news wire stories like this one are reporting that cartoonist (and I believe occasional publisher of his own magazines) Bahadir Baruter has been charged with "insulting the religious values adopted by a part of the population" and faces up to one year imprisonment. He was charged by the public prosecutor's office in Istanbul. Baruter is in his late forties and is a veteran of the comics and humor magazine industry in his home country.

The cartoon in question shows a man in prayer calling God on his cellphone asking to leave prayers in order to run some errands. At significant issue is a "hidden" message in the wall decorations where the words "There is no Allah; religion is a lie" supposedly appear. The cartoon was published in the humor magazine Penguen back in February; the cartoon became a mini-sensation via the Internet and the editors apologized for its publication while Baruter stood up to take full responsibility for the cartoon's messages. I'm not certain why the delay between publication and indictment, although I imagine that the prosecutor's office needs someone to file a complain in order to take action.

This sounds deplorable and slightly ridiculous to me, particularly in that there was already a public reaction and accompanying criticism of the cartoon. Given Turkey's recent history of government officials suing cartoonists that draw caricatures of public figures, this potential outcome could more firmly establish a continuity that's dismaying in the extreme.
posted 5:00 am PST | Permalink

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