Zapiro fears ‘chilling effect’ of Paris shooting

2015-01-08 12:17

South Africa’s leading cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro – better known as Zapiro – says he is devastated over the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, a city where he has lived himself.

He’s called on satirists and media around the world to stand together to fight fear and self-censorship following the tragedy.

“There is likely to be self-censorship in the short-term, but I really, really hope that we as media people can overcome it. This is a huge blow,” he told Radio France Internationale, hours after the attack yesterday.

“I am so upset, I am so devastated. I feel for them, I feel for their families. I know what it is like to be under threat, as they were.”

Charlie Hebdo’s editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, has received a string of death threats for his left-wing satirical features and cartoons over the years. Charbonnier was one of 12 staff members killed at the French weekly’s headquarters in Paris yesterday.

Zapiro is no stranger to controversy. His infamous Lady Justice rape cartoon – published in the Sunday Times on September 7 2008 – prompted President Jacob Zuma to file a court damages claim against him. It was withdrawn later.

Commenting on Charlie Hebdo yesterday, Zapiro said: “This is an absolute outrage. It is a huge attack on freedom of expression. It is a huge attack on secular society – everywhere. It’s an attack on cartoonists, on media. On that French irreverence that we hold so dear.”

“It will have a chilling effect on other satirists and other media. I just hope there is enough solidarity between media and satirists that we can make this chilling effect as small as possible. We have to try and be as strong as possible.”

A favourite anecdote of Zapiro’s is how, when he was 21 and living in Paris, he found an address for Albert Uderzo – illustrator of the French Asterix comics – in a Parisian library and ended up knocking on Uderzo’s door late one evening. The two men had an encouraging chat.

Why do cartoons make people so angry?

“Cartoons are an incredibly powerful medium of communication. It is a language that is internationally understandable, so the impact of a drawing is very very strong,” he told the French radio station.

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