Acclaimed French cartoonist Jean Plantu called on the New York Times Tuesday not to ban political cartoons from its pages after a furor involving a caricature of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The artist who founded the Cartooning for Peace charity, told AFP the newspaper was wrong to bow to pressure and remove a drawing by Portuguese illustrator Antonio Moreira Antunes from its site.
“Humor and unsettling images are part of our democracy,” Plantu said.
Not having biting cartoons was “as stupid as asking children not to do drawings for Mothers’ Day,” he added.
The cartoon of Netanyahu published in April in the Times‘ international edition was deemed anti-Semitic by some.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN likened it to the content of Nazi propaganda tabloid Der Sturmer.
It depicted Netanyahu as a guide dog wearing a Star of David collar and leading a blind Donald Trump wearing a kippah Jewish skullcap.
Opinion page editor James Bennet said the paper had planned for a year to stop running political cartoons — which already no longer appear in the US edition.
From next month it will no longer run political cartoons, Bennet said Monday.
Threat to freedom of opinion
Plantu, chief cartoonist of France’s Le Monde daily, said he was “worried about the future of our democracies and freedom of opinion” adding “one cannot imagine a newspaper without political caricatures”.
The artist, who set up Cartooning for Peace with the late UN chief Kofi Annan, is campaigning to have the UN’s cultural organization Unesco declare political cartooning a fundamental human right.
Reporters Without Borders have thrown their weight behind the drive.
Patrick Chappatte, one of the Times‘ leading cartoonists, said the newspaper’s decision was directly related to the Netanyahu cartoon.
He condemned the publication of that caricature but said he was concerned that media outlets were increasingly buckling under political pressure and criticism from “moralistic mobs” on social media.
“Over the last years, some of the very best cartoonists… lost their positions because their publishers found their work too critical of Trump. Maybe we should start worrying,” Chappatte wrote on his website.
Plantu said that he supported both “Antonio who has been censored by the New York Times… and Chappatte, who is an immense talent.”