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Arrest warrant issued for critical Indian cartoonist

(CRNI/IFEX) - On 31 August 2012, Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) was informed that an arrest warrant had been issued for Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi. On that day, he participated in a late-night demonstration in New Delhi protesting the warrant.

Trivedi is this year's winner of the prestigious CRNI Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning to be given at the annual convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists in Washington, DC, on 15 September.

It was not immediately apparent what the terms of the warrant were. However, CRNI is aware that Trivedi has been accused by enemies of his anti-corruption campaign of demeaning the government of India through his cartoons. Trivedi is also a primary organizer of a free speech campaign lobbying all levels of Indian government to stop the unwarranted censorship of Internet sites.

Trivedi, and many others, have been deeply involved in an anti-corruption movement in India over the last year. Recently, the leader of that movement, Anna Hazare, in a controversial and sudden move, declared that he was forming a political party. This act separated him from many elements of the nongovernmental anti-corruption movement that he founded and led. Trivedi is one of the heir apparents of the movement.

On being informed of the arrest warrant, CRNI deplored any attempt on the part of the Indian government to arrest Mr. Trivedi. He should be recognized as a hero in India for his selfless efforts and the risks he has taken to expose government corruption and the Indian government's lack of transparency. Trivedi is at special risk as it is common for some of India's political parties to unleash "goon squads" of armed thugs as political enforcers who beat and sometimes even kill individuals who are perceived as threats to the status quo. CRNI called on the Indian government to protect Mr. Trivedi and others in his movement who are clearly in danger of this kind of retribution.

When reached for comment on 31 August, CRNI Executive Director Robert Russell said, "That a government moves to arrest an anti-corruption free speech advocate on what are sure to be revealed as flimsy grounds speaks volumes for the inability or unwillingness of the Indian government to evenhandedly administer its own Constitution."

CRNI was subsequently informed on 3 September that the cartoonist was intending to turn himself in to the police.

CRNI calls on all other human rights and free speech organizations, as well as professional cartooning organizations all over the world, to protest the targeting of Trivedi and his imminent arrest.

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