Jonathan Shapiro was recently slapped with a law suit by President of the ANC Jacob Zuma for damage to his reputation as a result of cartoons drawn by Shapiro under the pen name Zapiro. A claim of R15 million was placed against him. Initially what sprang to mind is that how can Zapiro be sued for what had already been public knowledge? Considering that we JMS1 first years are the futures of the media world and will soon cast our ballot’s how are such cartoons influential to us if they are at all?
Cartoons can easily be defined as a simplified statement that usually portrays current political agenda. This is also the best way to describe Zapiro’s cartoons. To place these simple statements in a complex position would mean it would lose the essences of its depiction.
How does it become any fault of Zapiro’s that a public figure such as Zuma has a rancid reputation? Having created all this bad publicity around him, Zuma is merely placing blame on the press and is trying not only do damage control to save his reputation but he is also becoming a bully like Bush, who tried to censor the media for criticising him for the invasion of Iraq.
Clearly this is an attack on the media! But what does this mean for us future journalist? Should we even concern ourselves with this? Can this be seen as a lesson on ethics?
The image of Zuma ready to rape the justice system isn’t portrayed unfairly at all, that is exactly how many felt. Zapiro had just been brave enough to publically display this sentiment. He has not crossed his usual borders that are now seen as his norms or style and I do not believe that he should change.
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press has always been a touchy subject and will continue to be as long as free press is in existence. But where is the limit for all journalists? Do we know were to draw the line? And how important is it to know when to do this?
Zapiro, addressed the question of where to draw the line, and said:
“The line stops when you make a tangible connection between what you are saying and instances of people going out and causing physical hurt or death because of what you say. It’s about taboos, about whether a cartoonist has the right to go beyond a certain point. I am a freedom of expression junkie and I don’t gratuitously go out of my way to piss people off.”
False representation on the facts is always a no go for journalist and that is the bottom line. Journalists are meant to be the watch dogs of society and by fabricating our stories the public begins to lose faith in us. And media just becomes fiction, a never ending supply of entertainment.
Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard is one of those cartoonists who have overstepped their line. His cartoon was the controversial caricature depicting the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban. And the Muslim community had every right to be up in arms. Such cartoons have no right to be circulated because they are false and go against the masses. It is truly angering that the media can be used as a tool to publish blatant lies and punt certain discriminatory ideals. Yes Zapiro challenges the politics of the world in his own way which keeps within a respectable boundary and I strongly believe that such methods should be used. Anything to get the facts across is a better way than merely accepting and being steam-rolled over by government and politicians.
It is because that these cartoons become a form to explain and bring to attention current pertinent issues I believe that they do help when passing judgment on issues, but the manner in which they should be interpreted is left entirely up to the individual.
So first year journalism students: we are the tomorrows which yesterday predicted we are that which today has cultivated…. So go out there and speak out… brave the tide to develop a hopeful future.