Cartoonists On The Front Lines: The Economist Cartoonist on Free Expression in Turkey

Award-winning political cartoonist Kevin Kallaugher has shared his thoughts about United States’ society and politics in The Economist since 1978, but recently, he shared his concerns about the state of free speech in Turkey and the difficulty his fellow cartoonists have expressing themselves without fear of governmental repercussions.

In a recent interview with Cihan new agency, Kallaugher spoke about the country’s increasingly violent reaction towards cartoonists and journalists — a violence that has not only silenced some out of fear, but has spurred others to speak out louder about the injustices being perpetrated against independent media outlets. “Turkey is one of the most important countries in the world today,” said Kallaugher during a visit to the country for an exhibit and lecture on being a political cartoonist in the 21st century, “and I’ve been watching with great interest what’s been going on here and it’s great to be here in person and speak to Turks directly.” He adds:

All around the world cartoonist face problems. We always keep an eye out for these special issues when we see cartoonists in danger. I’m a great believer in the fact that in a democracy it’s really important that there is freedom to express one’s self and cartoonists are usually on the front lines of this freedom of expression.

Kallaugher admires cartoonists’ willingness to put themselves front lines. Through their art they are forcing people around the world to see what is happening in their countries. Moreover they are pushing those in power — people like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who would stifle freedom of expression — into the global spotlight. “To me the work that cartoonists do is of great concern to me,” commented Kallaugher. “Of course they, and all journalists in general, are on the front lines. I always watch such developments with great concern. I know that cartoonists and politicians around the world are watching as well.”

In light of recent events in Turkey, such as the prosecution of two Turkish cartoonists for their work in the satire magazine Penguen, Kallaugher expresses that now is a time that the world is becoming more attentive to injustices against free speech. Moreover, the work that cartoonists and journalists are doing now is becoming more and more important in capturing what is happening in other countries. Their work sheds light on issues within a particular country’s borders and helps to incite change:

I’d like to say that in a way we all like to laugh but it is hard to laugh at ourselves; the same thing goes for society. Society can laugh at other people but it is really important that they learn to laugh at themselves and cartoonists are the best at helping society laugh at themselves. We want cartoonists to be embraced by society, not punished. Wherever it happens it’s a great source of concern and people around the world are carefully watching what is going on here in Turkey.

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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!