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Repeatedly threatened cartoonist sued for defamation, wins award for courage

(CRN/IFEX) - The following is a 6 July 2007 CRN press release:

South African Cartoonist to Receive CRNI Award July 6

CRNI is proud to announce the 2007 winner of the Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award: Jonathan Shapiro of Cape Town, South Africa. Every year, cartoonists around the world are threatened by terrorists, government officials or affiliated goon squads. For many, the experience is intimidating and traumatizing; for a few, it is one more reason to express truth to power.

Two of Shapiro's three "Zuma" cartoons are cited in a US$2 million defamation suit ANC Deputy President Jacob Zuma has brought against the cartoonist, editors and South African publishers. Zuma's political pedigree includes resistance organizer, 10-year Robben Island prisoner, exile, ANC negotiator, party official and former deputy president of South Africa. In recent years, Zuma has drawn criticism from the press due to his in-fighting for ANC leadership and the company he keeps. There are allegations of tax evasion, corruption and rape.

The rape case did go to trial and was deemed consensual sex by the court 8 May 2006. However, Zuma's own testimony outraged HIV/AIDS educators. This former chair of the National AIDS Council testified that he did not use a condom. He said he minimized the risk of infection from the 32-year-old HIV positive woman by taking a shower. Shapiro took Zuma to task.

Thus the lawsuit. Jonathan has received late-night threats by telephone for other hard-hitting cartoons as well.

Refusing to be intimidated, Shapiro countered the lawsuit with new cartoons about the lawsuit. They were published by three newspaper groups.

Shapiro - pen name Zapiro - has been a political cartoonist for over two decades. He has the distinction of being detained without trial for his anti-apartheid activities in the 1980s and threatened by representatives of the current government. He joins an eclectic group of winners of the Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award:

Ali Dilem, Algeria
Paul Nyemb ("Popoli"), Cameroon
The Twelve Danish Cartoonists, Denmark
Nik Kowsar, Iran
Musa Kart, Turkey
Tony Namate, Zimbabwe

Mr. Shapiro will receive the prize 6 July 2007 at the annual Courage in Editorial Cartooning Awards Dinner. CRNI is holding the dinner and ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., this year.

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