Freedom Cartoonists Foundation
What would the world be without artists free to reflect it? The Freedom Cartoonists Foundation (formerly known as the Swiss Foundation Cartooning for Peace) is an organization dedicated to protecting that freedom through its support of professional editorial cartooning. To them, cartoonists and a free press are indispensable components of democracy. Political cartoonists question society, speak truth to power and seek to engage in civic dialogue.
The Foundation’s biannual International Cartoonist Award, created to recognize courage in editorial cartooning, has been renamed the Kofi Annan Courage in Cartooning Award. The 2022 laureates are Vladimir Kazanevsky, a Ukrainian cartoonist who fled to Slovakia following the outbreak of war and continues to draw as an act of resistance against Putin, and Gábor Pápai, a Hungarian cartoonist for the newspaper Népszava, the only opposition daily still alive in Budapest. They received their trophees from the hands of the 2021 Nobel Peace prize Laureates in an extraordinary ceremony in Geneva on May 3, 2022.
The origins of the Foundation go back to 2006, when the then-Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, and Jean Plantureux, a cartoonist for the French newspaper Le Monde under the nom de plume “Plantu,” held a conference for cartoonists titled “Unlearning Intolerance,” which focused on the role and responsibility of editorial cartoonists.
This symposium launched the Cartooning for Peace project, which eventually became an organization of the same name in Paris and a separate foundation in Geneva, established in 2010.
The Swiss Foundation was co-founded by Marie Heuzé, a former spokesman of the United Nations in Geneva, along with editorial cartoonists Patrick Chappatte, who was a contributor to The New York Times for 20 years, and Plantu. It was supported by Switzerland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Office in Geneva. The guiding inspiration of the Swiss Foundation, Kofi Annan remained its honorary chair until his death in 2018. In 2020, the organization was renamed the Freedom Cartoonists Foundation and its headquarters transferred to the Geneva Press Club. Under its new name, and with Chappatte as president, the organization reaffirmed its mission to support freedom of expression in a spirit of dialogue.
The Foundation works towards this mission through a number of impressive initiatives, most notably its biannual award and a support fund.
The (renamed) Kofi Annan Courage in Cartooning Award has been administered biannually since 2012. Past winners include four Iranian cartoonists in 2012, Hani Abbas (Syria, Palestine) and Doa Eladl (Egypt) in 2014, Zunar (Malaysia) and Gado (Kenya) in 2016, and Musa Kart (Turkey) in 2018. The awardee is chosen by an independent jury led by Human Rights Watch’s executive director Kenneth Roth, and composed of a representative of the city of Geneva, international cartoonists and the president of the Foundation. The 2022 nominees were pre-selected with the support of the Association Cartooning for Peace in Paris and the NGO Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) – which is the Swiss Foundation’s United States partner organization. The Award, given by Annan until his death in 2018, was presented this year by two outstanding guests of honor: the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, journalists Dmitry Muratov and Maria Ressa, in a ceremony celebrating World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2022. Both journalists gave keynote speeches, and then contributed to a panel discussion with Chappatte on the state of press freedom in our fractured world.
To coincide with its biennial Award, the Foundation organizes an international exhibition on the banks of Lake Geneva, showcasing editorial cartoons from across the globe, and covering a diverse range of topics. The themes presented this year are climate change, the COVID-10pandemic and war in Europe. (The exhibition will be open until May 31, 2022 on Quai Wilson, in Geneva.)
On May 3, 2022, The Foundation also announced their new international cartoon award partnership with CRNI: the two organizations will alternate the Award between Europe and the United States to ensure the best level of recognition for the recipients. The Swiss Foundation presented its Kofi Annan Courage in Cartooning Award in 2022, and CRNI will present the Robert Russell Courage in Cartooning Award in the upcoming odd-numbered years.
Along with its Award, the Foundation has also provided emergency funding to threatened cartoonists since 2017 thanks to the generosity of the Pro Victimis Foundation and private donors. The Support Fund initiative has helped artists from Malaysia, Syria, and Venezuela.
In January 2015, a tragic event in the world of editorial cartooning hit close to home for the Foundation when the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly newspaper based in Paris, were targeted in a terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 17 people. The newspaper was targeted due to its satirical portrayal of religious and political figures. In September 2016, the Foundation held a benefit symphony concert honoring the victims of the attack in Geneva’s Victoria Hall, free of charge to guests. The concert, conducted by Antony Hermus, featured Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, was live drawn by Chappatte and Plantu and extensively aired on television in Switzerland, France, Belgium, and Canada. The concert raised critical funding to support the Foundation’s work in defense of editorial cartoonists.
The Foundation also launched a pilot educational project “Creative Drawing for Humanity,” in collaboration with the Education Department of Geneva and NGO Enfants du Monde. Held in schools across the city, Creative Drawing is a series of cartooning classes helmed by Hani Abbas, a Palestinian cartoonist (and a recipient of the International Cartoon Award).
Abbas created three modules where students learn basic drawing techniques and how to use art to express themselves. Its key objectives are to promote justice, freedom, equality and tolerance through drawing, with a focus on dialogue as a means of expression and the importance of peace.
Recently, the Foundation partnered with the City of Geneva and Musée des beaux-arts du Locle to present the exhibition “Chappatte – Gare aux dessins!”. Scheduled from Dec.17, 2021 to February 20, 2022, the show was extended a full month due to its success.
On the first floor of the exhibition was a grand display of Patrick Chappatte’s best political cartoons. Surrounding his work were presentations of 24 other editorial cartoonists in a special section examining controversial cartoons and the limits imposed on artists. The exhibition featured Hani Abbas as a special guest.
As an organization, the Freedom Cartoonists Foundation is dedicated to protecting, preserving, and defending the right to freedom of expression of professional cartoonists around the world. The Foundation pursues this essential mission under the idea that freedom of speech is best defended through a spirit of open dialogue.
To learn more about the important work of the Freedom Cartoonists Foundation, check out their website.
By Gabrielle Pascal, May 2022. Gabrielle is a senior at Hofstra University studying English Literature.