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TURKISH CARTOONIST WINS FIRST ROUND

Musa photoFrom Milana Knezevic at indexoncensorship.org: Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart went to trial October 23, facing the prospect of spending nine years behind bars, simply for doing his job — which, in this case, involved making a critical (alleging criminal conduct) caricature of Turkey’s President (and former Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan that was “insulting and slanderous.” Commenting on Erdogan’s alleged hand in covering up a high-profile corruption scandal, the cartoon depicted him as a hologram keeping a watchful eye over a robbery.

Once in court, Kart was acquitted almost immediately, due in no small part to the swift reaction from colleagues around the world who gave Kart’s situation international headlines. “In the online #erdogancaricature campaign initiated by British cartoonist Martin Rowson, his fellow artists shared their own drawings of the president. With Erdogan reimagined as everything from a balloon to a crying baby to Frankenstein’s monster, the show of solidarity soon went viral.”

“This campaign has showed me once again that I m a member of world cartoonists family. I am deeply moved and honoured by their support,” Kart told Index in an email. The rest of the Index article follows in italic):

Kart has been battling the criminal charges since February. His defiance was clear for all to see when he told the court on Thursday [perhaps October 30; it’s not clear in the Internet dispatch] that “I think that we are inside a cartoon right now,” referring to the fact that he was in the suspect’s seat while charges against people involved in the graft scandal had been dropped.

Kart kitten kartoonHe remains defiant today: “Erdogan would have either let an independent judiciary process to be cleared or repressed his opponents. He chose the second way,” Kart said. “It’s a well known fact that Erdogan is trying to repress and isolate the opponents by reshaping the laws and the judiciary and by countless prosecutions and libel suits against journalists.”

This isn’t the first time Kart has run into trouble with Erdogan. Back in 2005, he was fined 5,000 Turkish lira for drawing the then-prime minister as a cat entangled in yarn. The cartoon represented the controversy that surrounded Turkey’s highest administrative court rejecting new legislation that Erdogan had campaigned on.

“I have always believed that cartoon humour is a very unique and effective way to express our ideas and to reach people and it contributes to a better and more tolerant world,” Kart explained when questioned on where he finds the strength to keep going.

It remains unclear whether the story ends with this latest acquittal decision. While the charges against Kart were dropped earlier this year, an appeal from Erdogan saw the case reopened.

“Erdogan’s lawyers will…take the case to the upper court,” Kart said.

Kart’s experience is far from unique; free expression is a thorny issues in Erdogan’s Turkey. In the past year alone, authorities temporarily banned Twitter and YouTube and introduced controversial internet legislation. Meanwhile journalists, like the Economist’s Amberin Zaman, have been continuously targeted.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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