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Furore over sacking of Kiwi cartoonist


Furore over sacking of Kiwi cartoonist

Drew Drawer

Crikey's cartoon correspondent

A first time contributor has filed this piece from New Zealand on the recent sacking of cartoonist Malcolm Evans and the man criticised, James Kemsley, has hit back so make sure you read to the bottom.

25 August 2003

"Kiwi cartoonist Malcolm Evans, the New Zealand Herald's erstwhile scribbler has been given his marching orders after what appears to be an orchestrated campaign by pro-Israeli lobby groups, including pressure applied by the Israeli ambassador to NZ.

Virtual Jerusalem: New Zealand latest locale in mideast cartoon battle

Evans's hard-hitting toons were certainly no worse than many other hundreds of others around the world critical of Israeli policy in the Holy Land. Check out some of the cartoons on Daryl Cagle's web site in the US (so far the only site brave enough to cover the issue)

The cartoons that got Malcolm Evans fired

Evans is undeniably a superb craftsman, and most independent observers would say that whilst he does criticise Sharon and the Israeli government, he throws the blame at both sides for the mounting death toll.

It's also increasingly obvious to those same independent observers that a growing worldwide campaign to stiffle criticism of Israel is taking shape, and that Evans's sacking is another victory, one which is acknowledged on this website:

Honest Reporting: Biased cartoonist sacked

So what of the home grown cartooning organizations in Australia and NZ, and why is there so little comment on the undeniable shoddy treatment of one of their own?

Well, for one, the Australian Cartoonists Association (formerly The Australian Black and White Artists Club) have been embarrassingly quiet, and that's not surprising, as their former President, Rod Emmerson, has stepped into the shoes of the sacked Evans and is supplying editorial content to the snowy wastes of NZ from sunny Rockhampton in Australia!

Emmerson insists that he was never aware that the previous cartoonist of the NZ Herald had been sacked. The whole episode leaves a bad taste in the mouth of Kiwi newspaper artists like Garrick Tremain, who said he was surprised to learn Rod Emmerson had agreed to replace Malcolm Evans.

"He came to New Zealand some months ago and urged us (New Zealand cartoonists) to get a similar organisation (to the Australian Black and White Artist Club) over here. One of his platforms was to give us a united voice against editorial interference." (!) Rumour has it that discussion of the matter on the ACA website has been quashed by present President of the ACA, James Kemsley, the latest in a line of cartoonists to try (and fail) to breathe life into the ancient Ginger Meggs strip.

Kemsley, who has recently returned from the US is a greaser-up of editors and a breathless name dropper extraordinaire, is desperately trying to mould the Australian Cartoonists Association into a replica of its larger American equivalent. Presumably to enhance his own reputation. Any whiff of scandal, especially regarding one cartoonist cutting another's lunch, as it were, would not go down well over in the U.S. of A.

American editorialists, unlike strip cartoonists like Kemsley, are a pretty militant bunch. The thought of an editorialist being hounded out a job by a religio/political lobby group is unusual enough, but for his editors to subsequently offer his job to a cartoonist in a foreign country, thousands of miles away is unheard of!

As for the New Zealand Herald, or the Auckland Bleater as they're known, they're staying shtumm on the matter. They were acting on legal advice, they reckon, but won't be drawn on Evans's claim that they were happy to print cartoons on the Palestinian/Israeli crisis until the pro-Israel lobby started targeting them."

SMH: Sacked cartoonist stands firm

Indy Media: Malcolm Evans sacked for anti-Israel cartoons

One news: Herald political cartoonist fired

JAMES KESLEY ON THE KIWI CARTOON IMBROGLIO

With regards to "Kiwi cartoonist sacked after pressure from Israel lobby", maybe your first time contributor from New Zealand might get a few facts correct before attempting a report on such a complex situation. I am not in a position to comment on the Evans/Auckland Herald affair, other than to reprint here what I have already posted on the ACA Forum website.

It follows:

"Apparently from what I have learnt the "being told what to draw" report may not have been entirely accurately reported. I've been digging a bit, both here and in NZ, but without a great deal of joy, other than getting the impression a lot of factors over a long period of time contributed towards Evans' demise. Again there is no hard evidence to believe that there is any more truth in that the reason reported.

I doubt there is a member of the Club who wouldn't be abhorred to find out a colleague was being told what to draw... or else! However to come out and castigate or criticize an editor or their organization without the facts before us would hold the ACA and its "professionalism" up to ridicule.

The ACA DOES need to make its position on the matter public, but unless we have the facts I don't believe we can do it by shooting off a letter to the Auckland Herald. Erring on the side of caution is not being "gutless" (though I guess John Howard and George W might disagree with my view)."

However, what I am in a position to comment on are the scurrilous and inaccurate assertions regarding the ACA and myself. To begin let's deal with the rumour that debate on the matter had " been quashed on the ACA website." That is not the case. There has been, and continues to be, healthy debate , if somewhat divided opinion, expressed on the Forum. A junior cadet would have checked this fact before including it in any reporting on the matter.

As for the vicious personal attacks, true or otherwise, on myself, I fail to see the reason for their inclusion on a report dealing with the dismissal of a cartoonist in New Zealand. My personality, or lack of it, and its bearing on the perceived stance of the ACA in the is matter is completely irrelevant.

The further assertion that I am the "latest in a line of cartoonists to try (and fail) to breathe life into the ancient Ginger Meggs strip" also shows a lack of any genuine research on the writer's behalf. Meggs currently appears in more newspapers, in more countries, than at any other time in its 83 year history. I have lost count of the number of newspaper websites in America carrying the strip and Meggs is the only Australian comic on the major US site www.comics.com. The strip is currently the gold medal winner for Comics in the Rotary National Cartoon Awards and in 2001 I was voted, by my peers, as the Outstanding Cartoonist of Year. If this is the definition of failure, I am willing live with it.

As for being "a greaser-up of editors and a breathless name dropper extraodinaire", true or not true, and as a hermit in the sunny Southern Highlands of NSW, who rarely ventures outside the front gate, I don't obviously don't agree with the statement but I am willing to leave the accuracy of the claims up to those people with whom I have business dealings and to those know me.

"Desperately trying to mould the ACA in to a replica of its American equivalent." Yet another incorrect, research-lacking, assertion. Successful organizations, and the NCS is a VERY successful cartooning society, have no qualms "borrowing" ideas from similar successful groups. I've learnt a lot from my visits to the USA, some of their practices suit our style others do not. If the writer had done a thorough job they may have learnt the ideas exchange has not been a one-way street.

Sour grapes, tall poppies et al, (from a cartoonist spurned maybe), permeate this section of an otherwise unbalanced report.

James Kemsley

President, Australian Cartoonists' Association

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