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Cartoons: Great Risks and Great Opportunities

All Crises Carry Both Great Risks and Great Opportunities.

The Cartoonists Rights Network continues to be horrified by the events triggered by the publication of 12 cartoons by the Danish paper, Jyllands-Posten.

While dialogue on many fronts and in many venues is starting to be reflected in news reports, yesterday's reports of deaths of demonstrators in Pakistan indicate that this particular forest fire still has fuel to burn. We praise the efforts of Reporters sans frontières to set an example by hosting a day-long panel of commentators and experts exchanging a wide range of views on the cartoons and the aftermath of their publication. This event set a tone and an example of dialogue and understanding.

With all crises come both great risks and great opportunities. Now, while both sides of this unprecedented divide have each other's full attention, time is ripe for all freedom of expression institutions to open channels of dialogue in a spirit of open exchange of ideas and cultures.

Cartoonists Rights Network urges all participants in this crisis to start exploring concrete pragmatic ways to take advantage of the opportunities now open to all sides and turn the polemics into dialogue. Calls for cartoonists in Iran to draw cartoons of the holocaust is also part of freedom of speech: Let the cartoons flow and let's talk about the responses, not riot over them.

Web sites representing all perspectives should seek to bridge linguistic divides by providing translations of their postings so all can read the wide variety of points of view.

Through their work, CRN encourages editorial cartoonists of all perspectives to use this time to reinforce the value of the individual point of view in the media. A picture is still worth a thousand words, and cartoonists have a wonderful opportunity to promote a thousand points of view with the least number of strokes of the pen.

It would seem that images are more powerful than many might have thought. Media organizations should see that the written word and the printed image evoke different kinds of intellectual and emotional responses, that images can be supra-powerful in delivering a message: no written editorial could ever have triggered this much emotion. Freedom of expression organizations should turn attention to the role of images in communications and develop more expertise in understanding the visual image.

CRN continues to support cartoonists who have been threatened or attacked or legally challenged in the pursuit of their craft. CRN unequivocally supports the individual's instinctive need to express the self and recognizes that seeking ever-deeper understandings of the environment is a basic survival requirement of any society.

Robert Russell

Executive Director

CRN International

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