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National Protest Against Texas School Censoring Fitz Cartoon

The National Coalition Against Censorship has joined with ten other organizations to protest a Texas school district’s actions in withdrawing an assignment for 8th graders, in response to a complaint by police.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott demanded that the teacher be fired and that the school district be investigated. Read about the incident here in my blog.

“NCAC calls upon the (Wylie school) board to rescind its ban on the cartoon, allowing the assignment to be completed. It should further publicly commit that the teacher will not be fired or otherwise punished. Finally, we urge you to reaffirm your obligation to present students with views from across the political spectrum and to establish procedures that guarantee teachers can operate free from the fear of political censorship.”

The organizations protesting the school district’s actions include:

American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom
National Council for the Social Studies
National Council of Teachers of English
PEN America Children’s and Young Adult Book Committee
PEN America and the Artists at Risk Connection
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Freedom to Read Foundation
Index on Censorship

Here is NCAC’s letter:
August 26, 2020

David Vinson, Ph.D. Superintendent
Wylie Independent School District
951 South Ballard Avenue
Wylie, TX 75098

Re: Removal of Political Cartoon From School Website

Dear Dr. Vinson,

I am writing on behalf of the National Coalition Against Censorship and the other organizations signed below to protest the decision to remove from a school website an editorial cartoon that was part of a class assignment because it criticizes the use of violence against Black people over the course of American history, including violence by police.

NCAC is an alliance of 57 national non-profit organizations, including literary, artistic, religious, educational, professional, labor, and civil liberties groups. We promote freedom of thought, inquiry and expression for all Americans, including K-12 students, teachers, and staff.

Our CagleCartoonist David Fitzsimmons of the Arizona Daily Star, who drew the cartoon that offended the police and the governor.

Based on news reports, it is our understanding that a social studies teacher at Cooper Junior High School posted two editorial cartoons as part of the assignment–the cartoon about racial violence and another depicting opposition to wearing a mask as protection against the Covid-19. The assignment was cancelled after the National Fraternal Order of Police complained that the cartoon about racial violence is “abhorrent and disturbing.” Texas Governor Greg Abbott has demanded that the teacher be fired and asked the Texas Education Agency to investigate.

Yet the teacher appears to have been following the curriculum established by the state board of education, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies. It requires middle school students to “discuss how and whether the actions of U.S. citizens and the local, state, and federal governments have achieved the ideals espoused in the founding documents.” It further requires them to “organize and interpret information from . . . visuals,” to “identify bias and points of view created by the historical context surrounding an event,” and to “evaluate the validity of a source based on corroboration with other sources and information about the author.”

The teacher at Cooper Junior High School asked students to write about the role that protest plays in democracy and about whether protest leads to change in society. In other words, it asked students to do exactly what the standards require them to do: “discuss how and whether the actions of U.S. citizens . . . have achieved the ideals espoused in the founding documents” The assignment included the two cartoons as examples of protest by people on opposite ends of the political spectrum. There was no effort to endorse either view.

However, the actions taken by school officials were anything but neutral. By cancelling the assignment, they expressed official disapproval of the ideas expressed by the cartoon depicting racial violence. As a result, they violated their duty as public officials. More than 75 years ago, the Supreme Court stated that “no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion,” and just three years ago the Court reiterated that ““If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”

The district’s actions create a dangerous precedent, putting teachers on notice that they cannot present any material that might be offensive to someone in the community. Just as teachers in San Francisco should feel free to show students a cartoon which argues that Blue Lives Matter, teachers in the Wylie ISD should be able to display a cartoon that argues that Black Lives Matter.

NCAC calls upon the board to rescind its ban on the cartoon, allowing the assignment to be completed. It should further publicly commit that the teacher will not be fired or otherwise punished. Finally, we urge you to reaffirm your obligation to present students with views from across the political spectrum and to establish procedures that guarantee teachers can operate free from the fear of political censorship.

Sincerely yours,

Christopher Finan
Executive Director
National Coalition Against Censorship

Co-signed by:
American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Freedom to Read Foundation
Index on Censorship
National Council for the Social Studies
National Council of Teachers of English
PEN America and the Artists at Risk Connection
PEN America Children’s and Young Adult Book Committee

Cc: Matt Atkins, Board President
Heather Leggett, Board Vice-President
Jacob Day, Board Secretary
Stacie Gooch, Board Member
Barbara Goss, Board Member
Mitch Herzog, Board Member
Stacie Smith, Board Member


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Ugly Purge Lands a Turkish Cartoonist in Jail – Again

UPDATE Friday August 19, 2016: Dogan Guzel is released! Read about it in Spanish here, and the Google translation of the article here.

Two great cartooning organizations that I support, Cartooning for Peace and Cartoonists Rights Network International are spotlighting the arrest and imprisonment of Turkish cartoonist Dogan Güzel who was swept up in a mass arrest of journalists as he was visiting colleagues at the pro-Kurdish newspaper, Özgür Gündem in central Istanbul, which was raided and closed in the wake of the failed July 15th coup in Turkey. The Turkish police reportedly confiscated computers at the newspaper offices, which editors described as “looting” on Twitter.

GuzelLarge
Cartoonist Dogan Güzel being dragged off off to jail this week in a mass arrest at a small newspaper in Istanbul. He reportedly asked an attorney for a new shirt.

Dogan was convicted, sentenced to seventeen years in prison and spent a year and a half in jail for drawing cartoons critical of the regime in Turkey. He was given amnesty in 1999 and moved to Spain where he lived for more than ten years and was given political asylum; he is a Spanish citizen. He now lives in both Seville and Istanbul. Dogan is being held on the charge of “making propaganda for the Kurdish armed group PKK”.

The Özgür Gündem newspaper is small, with a circulation of only 6,700; it has been banned many times for its coverage of the Kurdish conflict, a continuing thorn in the side of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who seems to be using the coup as an opportunity jail all of his critics. Here is a nice report in Spanish. There is little or no coverage of this story in English.

Cartooning for Peace is soliciting cartoonists to draw on Dogan’s behalf. Cartoonists Rights Network International posted the report below.


Cartoonist Dogan Güzel was among the journalists arrested in the government raid on the Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem in Istanbul on Tuesday. Photos show the cartoonist in a torn shirt in police custody. In 1999, Dogan Güzel was the first recipient of CRNI’s Courage in Political Cartooning award. At that time, he had just spent a year in jail for “drawing a cartoon that called the state ‘weak,’ and for publishing his cartoons in the Kurdish language.” Cartoonists Rights joins Reporters Without Borders in condemning the closure of the newspaper and calls for the release of the journalists.

Message from CRNI founder Robert Russell
We have recently come to know that our friend and former Courage in Editorial Cartooning award winner, Dogan Güzel, has been rounded up in a raid on his newspaper in Turkey.
 
We call on the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to quickly release our colleague Dogan Güzel, and all other journalists who are legally carrying out their professional duties in accordance with their constitutional rights. This kind of thing will happen in any country where the head of state is allowed to act as if they are more important than the constitution that they swore to protect. All of Turkey seems to be evolving into its own prison.
Robert Russell
Executive Director

Here is a sample of Dogan’s work. See more here.

DoganSample750
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A brave woman cartoonist was imprisoned in Iran for posting this cartoon on Facebook

Brave Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani was imprisoned in Iran for posting this cartoon on her own Facebook page. Please share the video and the cartoon – everyone should see it.

Read the latest news about Atena on the Cartoonists Rights Network site.

You can e-mail Iran’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations at [email protected]. Here is a suggested letter:

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei,
President Hassan Rouhani
Head of Judiciary Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani

Honored Sirs;

I am writing to protest the outrageous sentence handed down against Iranian artist Atena Farghadani, and to urge her conviction be overturned and Ms. Farghadani freed.

Freedom of expression and association are universal human rights recognized by all civilized nations, including Iran as a signatory to the UN’s International Human Rights Conventions. The arrest and sentencing of Atena Farghadani is a clear violation of those rights, and also of Iran’s own statutes and international agreements. It cannot be allowed to stand.

In the interest of justice and to demonstrate its recognition of universal human rights, Iran must release Atena Farghadani.

Respectfully,

your name
your city/state/country 

Aetna-Image