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Indian, Hong Kong satirists win press cartoon award

Indian cartoonist Rachita Taneja (L) and Hong Kong's Zunzi (R) won the award in Geneva
Indian cartoonist Rachita Taneja (L) and Hong Kong's Zunzi (R) won the award in Geneva - Copyright AFP Fabrice COFFRINI
Indian cartoonist Rachita Taneja (L) and Hong Kong's Zunzi (R) won the award in Geneva - Copyright AFP Fabrice COFFRINI

Indian cartoonist Rachita Taneja and Hong Kong’s Zunzi were awarded the biennial Kofi Annan Courage in Cartooning Award on Friday, which is World Press Freedom Day.

Taneja has been under threat of a prison sentence since a member of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party complained about her online webcomic Sanitary Panels, whose stick figures take on subjects like harassment, homophobia, menstruation and authoritarianism.

Zunzi was dismissed by his newspaper in 2023, three years after China adopted national security laws that have reshaped Hong Kong’s arts, culture and media. Officials complained his images were “distorting and unethical”.

India ranks 159th out of 180 countries in the 2024 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, while Hong Kong ranks 135th.

The ceremony on Friday for the Kofi Annan award was accompanied by an exhibition of press cartoons, which Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi opened on the shores of Lake Geneva, by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights.

“World Press Freedom Day is a chance to stand for truth, protect those bravely working to uncover it, and counter oppression,” UN human rights chief Volker Turk said on X.

He said 71 journalists had been killed and 320 imprisoned last year, while suppression, criminalisation and attacks against journalists were being met with impunity.

“This cannot become our status quo. In this crucial election year, we must ensure governments protect our right to hold those in power to account,” he said.

– Women cartoonists highlighted –

This year’s award and exhibition highlight “the pivotal role of women in the fight for freedom (and)… the challenges faced by female cartoonists globally” said the organisers — the Freedom Cartoonists Foundation and the city of Geneva.

“We want to highlight the increasing numbers of women press artists. In addition to the pressures they are under due to their professions, they have to face threats because they are women,” said the foundation’s head, Swiss cartoonist Patrick Chappatte.

Taneja risks six months’ imprisonment if India’s supreme court upholds a complaint from a member of the student wing of the ruling BJP.

The country’s press freedom rankings have declined markedly since Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014, while restrictions on civil society have seen rights groups such as Amnesty International severely curtail their local operations.

Zunzi, born in Hong Kong in 1955, began his career as a political caricaturist with Ming Pao in 1983. 

The paper sacked him last year after months of criticism from officials and attacks on freedom of expression, the foundation said.

The authorities complained his drawings displayed “sanctimonious humour that damages Hong Kong’s image”.

His books and albums are banned from public libraries.

The exhibition “Cartooning for Freedom” from Friday to June 2 focuses on three topics — women’s rights; the ongoing wars in the Middle East, Ukraine and Sudan; and artificial intelligence.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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