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CRNI Announces Winners of the 2012 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award - Syrian Ali Ferzat and Indian Aseem Trivedi

05/09/2012

May 9, 2012, Burke, Virginia - Today Dr. Robert Russell, the Executive Director of the Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI), announced the winners of the 2012 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award as decided by a unanimous vote of the CRNI Board of Directors.  The winners are Ali Ferzat, from Syria, and Aseem Trivedi, from India.  CRNI, the only international organization exclusively devoted to defending the human rights of cartoonists imperiled because of their work, will hold the award ceremony during the annual convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) on September 15.  The ceremony is currently scheduled to take place at George Washington University’s Jack Morton Auditorium in Washington, DC.

Every year, CRNI recognizes a cartoonist who has shown exemplary courage in the face of unrelenting threat, legal action or other pressure as punishment or disincentive for cartoons that are too powerful for some officials, sects, terrorists or demagogues.  This year CRNI recognizes two such cartoonists.   

To quote CRNI Board Member Matt Wuerker, the editorial cartoonist for Politico.com, from Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, “Ali Ferzat, 60, spent years drawing insightful cartoons, mostly staying between the prescribed lines of Syria’s state-sanctioned media.  But confronted with the regime’s increasing brutality, he embraced the democracy movement and turned his lampoons on President Bashar Assad directly.”  For this, thugs were ordered to send Ali a message.  They brutally beat him up, intentionally breaking both his hands.  After the attack, Ali made a second courageous and potentially life-threatening decision.  He decided to make public what the Assad Regime had done to him.  The work of this brave and talented artist can be seen online at http://www.ali-ferzat.com/ar/comics.html and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ali.frzat.

Aseem Trivedi, a young cartoonist from India, like Ali Ferzat, made two courageous decisions.  First, in an atmosphere of increasing censorship and repression in the world’s largest democracy, Aseem launched the Cartoons Against Corruption website.  In an effort to mobilize his fellow citizens against India’s pervasive political corruption, Aseem filled this site with his anti-corruption cartoons.  After being charged with treason and insulting national symbols, Aseem made his second courageous act.  Despite the charges and threats of additional charges, he has taken a leadership role in India’s emerging free speech movement.  Joining forces with other free speech activists, Aseem has launched an online freedom of expression campaign called Save Your Voice: A Movement Against Web Censorship.

CRNI, a free speech and human rights organization with affiliate organizations around the world, conducts workshops on emerging freedom of expression issues.  Our programs include actions to reduce violence against cartoon journalists, and, workshops to educate the public about the essential role of editorial cartoonists in the democratic process.  CRNI is a member of IFEX.

Please contact CRNI for more information about Ali Ferzat and Aseem Trivedi as well as former awardees, such as Malaysian Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, aka Zunar, and South African Jonathan Shapiro, aka Zapiro, who are still facing court actions aimed at silencing their speech.  Zunar was a CRNI honoree in 2011 and Zapiro was an honoree in 2007.  Since the founding of CRNI twenty-one years ago, the staff, volunteers and friends of our organization have witnessed an alarming rise in reprisals directed at editorial cartoonists due to the power and influence of their work.