Why Musa Kart is an Optimist and Americans Can’t Afford to be

I believe in Turkey. I believe for Turks there is no night that lasts forever. Also in Turkey the daylight will return.” – Musa Kart

Political Cartoonist, Musa Kart was honored for his bravery in the face of government oppression with the 2018 International Press Cartoon Prize by the Swiss Foundation Cartooning for Peace. This was a little over a week after he was found guilty with 13 of his colleagues on terrorism charges. Due to this recent conviction, which he and the other staff members of Cumhuriyet are appealing, he was unable to travel to the ceremony to accept the award, so his wife and daughter went in his place and read a prepared statement. Cumhuriyet, the paper Musa Kart has worked at for the last 25 years, covered the event and Kart’s remarks.

“I really wish I could be among you today, but it seems that those who don’t like my cartoons also don’t like me to meet with you. Maybe this is the reason for why they banned me from traveling abroad, but I wish I could be there to hug and thank you,” Musa Kart said in his message, as he added that the award “honored me and gave me strength.”

“You reminded me once again that I’m a member of world cartoonists family,” he also said.

In the video above, Musa Kart laughingly relates that his wife tells him “your optimism will kill me someday” but it’s clear that it has served him well throughout his career in Turkey where he’s regularly caught the ire of President Erdoğan. Kart won the 2005 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award from Cartoonists Rights Network International after he successfully fought a lawsuit over a cartoon depicting the then-Prime Minister as “a kitten entangled in a ball of yarn.” In 2014 he was again acquitted after Erdoğan sued over another cartoon that criticized his apparent role in a graft scandal. His positivity is astonishing considering all he has faced, but the video of Kart that shows him helping his granddaughter color, with his wife lovingly watching, is a reminder that there is probably more good in this world than bad.

However, the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAES), is urging Americans to hold their trademark optimism in favor of constant vigilance. In a recent op-ed about Musa Kart’s oppression and why the U.S. needs to pay more attention, the AAES Board writes

The oft-repeated statement “an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us” applies to political cartoonists worldwide after Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart was sentenced to prison. Why should Americans care about the fate of a satirist who mocked his president in a country halfway around the world? Because it can happen here.

The plea goes on to talk about how Turkey went from “a beacon of democracy with a relatively freewheeling press” to its current incarnation of totalitarianism, imprisoning those that disagree with Erdoğan including journalists like Kart for his political cartoons.

For those that read through Reporters Without Borders analysis of the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, this call to action will come as no surprise. The world is increasingly dangerous for journalists, and the United States is exhibiting negative markers that conflict with the ideals of a free press.

The AAES now joins Reporters Without Borders in entreating the public to be sentries at home and abroad for abuses of the press. In order for those journalists facing threats of censorship and violence to stay optimistic like Musa Kart, they need to know they aren’t standing alone in the dark night. The whole world is not just watching, but standing behind them, and waiting patiently for daylight to return.

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