NEW YORK – The prestigious newspaper The New York Times announced it will stop publishing political cartoons in its international edition starting July 1, as it has already done with its domestic edition, following a controversy that began last April when a cartoon it published triggered complaints that it was anti-Semite.
Editorial page editor James Bennett said on the NYT Twitter page that such a decision had been under consideration “for well over a year,” adding that the daily will continue “investing in visual journalism” and thanked international cartoonists Patrick Chappatte and Heng Kim Song for their work.
“Just last year, The New York Times for the first time in its history won a Pulitzer in the category of political cartooning, for a nonfiction series by Jake Halpern and Michael Sloan telling the story of a Syrian refugee family. We intend to do more such work and hope to collaborate with Patrick and Heng and others on such projects in the future,” the editor wrote.
Chappatte, meanwhile, posted an entry in his blog this Monday reflecting on the end of political cartoons in the Times and said “I’m putting down my pen, with a sigh: that’s a lot of years of work undone by a single cartoon – not even mine – that should never have run in the best newspaper in the world.”
“In April 2019, a Netanyahu caricature from syndication reprinted in the international editions triggered widespread outrage, a Times apology and the termination of syndicated cartoons,” Chappatte recalled about the cartoon by Portugal’s Antonio Moreira Antunes, published previously in that country’s weekly Expresso.
In it, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is represented as a guide dog leading US President Donald Trump, who wears dark glasses and a kippa on his head. “The image was offensive, and it was an error of judgment to publish it,” the Times apologized.
Chappatte, however, said on his blog that “this is not just about cartoons, but about journalism and opinion in general. We are in a world where moralistic mobs gather on social media and rise like a storm, falling upon newsrooms in an overwhelming blow.”
For the cartoonist, cartoons are a “prime target” because of their nature as a “visual shortcut with an unmatched capacity to touch the mind,” but often “the real target, behind the cartoon, is the media that published it.”
The Times “was one of the last venues for international political cartooning,” Chappatte wrote, and recalled colleagues of his who have gone to prison, or into exile, or were fired for being “too critical of Trump” in the US, and said now is the time for “pushing back. Political cartoons were born with democracy. And they are challenged when freedom is.”