The Mail and Guardian said on Monday that it stands by its publication of Zapiro’s latest controversial cartoon which the ANC might take legal action against.
On Sunday, the governing party’s spokesperson Brian Sokutu said that it is seeking legal advice and is considering laying charges over the cartoon, which appeared in the June 10 2011 edition of the newspaper.
In the cartoon, President Jacob Zuma, with the word “govt” written on his side, is seen unbuckling his belt while Gwede Mantashe, with ANC written on his side, pushes a woman with a sash reading “Freedom of Speech” and a torch in her hand, towards him.
On the side lies another woman, blindfolded with scales at her side and her dress torn, and shouting “FIGHT SISTER, FIGHT”.
Already facing lawsuit
The blindfolded woman seemingly represents Lady Justice and is a reference to the 2008 cartoon of Zuma preparing to rape her while members of the ANC and its alliance partners held her down.
Zapiro, whose real name is Jonathan Shapiro, is already facing a defamation of character lawsuit for that cartoon - The Rape of Lady Justice - of R5m.
The Mail and Guardian’s editor Nic Dawes told News24 that the newspaper will not apologise for Zapiro’s latest cartoon and will not retract it either.
“The cartoon was strong, tough and disturbing and [an] attempt to deal with a disturbing [issue],” Dawes said.
Isn’t it ironic?
He said he found it ironic that the ANC was seeking legal action about a cartoon regarding freedom of speech.
The ANC’s Sokutu, however, did not see the irony.
He said that while the ANC “subscribes to freedom of speech and freedom of expression, “the cartoon was in bad taste and undermines the dignity of [President] Zuma.
“It borders on defamation of character and is a gross abuse of freedom of speech [and] is not in line with journalistic ethics.
“We are not against him [Zapiro] expressing himself, we are against the depiction [of Zuma].”
Zapiro, meanwhile, said that while he wasn’t officially informed of the ANC’s complaint regarding the matter, he takes the drawing of the cartoons very seriously.
“It is a no-brainer that the cartoon is metaphorical”, he added.
“These are iconic symbols of justice and freedom of speech that have been around for hundreds of years,” he said, in reference to the women in the drawings.
He warned that, with the proposed protection of information bill to which he is referring in the cartoon, he sees the nation “on a slippery slope towards authoritarian rule”.
In addition to the R5m lawsuit, Shapiro is facing another R2m lawsuit from Zuma for a 2006 cartoon.