If the Headline is Upworthy, It’s Probably Untrue

I love a counter-intuitive argument. But only when it’s air-tight.

That’s why I was skeptical of Tablet magazine’s gaudy headline: "If You Want To Find Support for Israel, Read the Newspapers—in Cairo." 

Well, I read the newspapers—in Cairo—and apparently Tablet’s writer hasn’t. There are more broadsheets in the photograph accompanying the piece, which is undated and vaguely captioned, than in the entirety of the blog post. In fact, the only newspaper cited is Al-Ahram, a state newspaper that hardly represents all of Egypt. And even if you were to assert that the state’s flagship paper represents the entire county, you would first have to read more than one article in it!

I won’t bother dissecting the author’s platitudes about “Arab states.”

Instead, I’ll take the publication to task for this sweeping generalization: “Numerous Egyptian media reports have also expressed explicit support for Israel’s actions.”

The source for this assertion? A short, scantily cited article from Gatestone Institute, which Rightweb calls “a New York-based advocacy organization that is tied to neoconservative and other right-wing networks in the United States and Europe.”

A handful of Egyptian media sources are quoted by Gatestone, but that hardly proves the author’s argument. The best way to make such a claim would be to read the dozens of Arabic newspapers available in Cairo. Note to Tablet and Gatestone: most Egyptian newspapers also have websites, so you don’t have to leave your armchair!

Cairo is the media capital of Middle East—or at least the city thinks it is. Can you imagine a foreign correspondent in the US saying “this is what the newspapers in New York are saying,” by only quoting Tom Friedman? That would be considered shoddy reporting.

What really upsets me is that this ideologically-driven and wholly un-factchecked post from Tablet appears in Google News. Talk about false advertising.

That’s why I am posting a bunch of political cartoons that offer a variety of Arab and Egyptian opinions on the Gaza war, which is apparently something that other publications are too lazy to do.

"It’s okay, he just had a difficult childhood."

Andeel / Mada Masr / 25 July 2014

"No Comment"

Farag Hassan / Al-Ahram / 24 July 2014

"GAZA" in black marker, though the man is distracted by a mango dessert on his laptop.

Walid Taher / Al-Shorouk / 18 July 2014

***

For more Arab perspectives on the Gaza war, see here and here.

Egypt’s Media, Unplugged

My colleague Rasha Abdulla has just published a useful overview of the Egyptian media, on the Carnegie Endowment’s website. Here is Abdulla’s assessment of the challenges facing journalists: 

Generally speaking, the media in Egypt are currently characterized by their seemingly unanimous support for the regime and an inflated portrayal of high hopes for the new president. This is coupled with a continuing tendency to vilify the Muslim Brotherhood and a campaign to smear the activists of the January 25 revolution, while ignoring any human rights violations committed by the current regime and any efforts to counter them.

Under these circumstances, it has become increasingly difficult for the slim minority that is trying to sing a tune different from that of the mainstream media to find a place for itself in these outlets. Voices trying to raise awareness of the danger of a comeback of military rule or to highlight violations and call for the release of imprisoned activists and journalists, including some who used to be regular guests on Egypt’s popular evening talk shows, are now persona non grata on the same shows that welcomed them almost every night. Online media, including social media, seem to provide the best opportunities for exposure for the opposition and for activists at this time.

Abdulla goes on to catalogue many troublesome omens, from the censorship of celebrity comedian Bassem Youssef to the Interior Ministry’s leaked RFP for mass monitoring of online media. The latter point demands further attention, especially since, “The RFP listed 54 technical specifications required for the software, including the preferred ability to monitor not only public posts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube but also private messaging and telephony applications such as WhatsApp and Viber.” The Internet is the only space for public debate and dissent in Egypt, and officials have realized that this is a major blind spot.

It’s no surprise that Abdulla emphasizes web journalism as a check and balance on mainstream media. But as the Interior Ministry searches for new ways to monitor online platforms, one imagines that, in the near future, web journalists will face the same constraints as those working in broadcast and print media.

For now, online agitators must encrypt their correspondence, protect their communications, and install safeguards—before it’s too late. 

At least since Lichtenstein appropriated a comic-strip Benday dot, Duchamp riffed on Mutt and Jeff, or Einstein admired a Mickey Mouse cel, art has had a love affair with animation, comics, and cartoons—and its ardor, eagerly reciprocated, has given rise to a tense historic interplay between high and low, synthetic and real, margin and center.

Artforum's special issue, Graphic Content: Art and Animation

Julien Ceccaldi, I Am My Goals, 2014, Comic Made for ArtForum.

"American Pressure on Israel"
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the masseuse table, croons, "My Gawwwwwd, America. That is some sweet pressure." In the spa, the sign reads, "International Massage Club." 
What I like about this cartoon is that the pun transcends language barriers. The image is unmistakably legible in both Arabic and English.
Mustafa Hussein, 79, drew this political cartoon for the Egyptian state newspaper Al-Akhbar. His face is in the upper lefthand corner of the cartoon, as per the Egyptian tradition.
Hussein loves to render countries as women, often sexualizing and fetishizing the state. In this case, Hussein draws Washington as a voluptuous woman as method of symbolic violence; in the highly gendered (and gender-normative) world of Egyptian cartooning, rendering a country or character as a woman is the equivalent of a full frontal attack. Yes, it’s sexist and misogynistic. Cartoonists, however, traffic in blunt and abrasive symbology, so it’s not wholly surprising. 
Hussein’s illustrations demarcate the baseline of political expression in the state newspaper. In them, America is usually depicted as a man—a bungling Uncle Sam. The US as saucy masseuse represents a departure.
This cartoon from last month, for instance, shows two Uncle Sams, both of whom are very out of touch with the situation on the Nile.

"Look, brother, at the audacity of those Egyptians…. They don’t want us to interfere in their affairs?!"
Mustafa Hussein / Al-Akhbar / 11 June 2014
**
More of Hussein’s illustrations here here here here here here and here . 

"American Pressure on Israel"

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the masseuse table, croons, "My Gawwwwwd, America. That is some sweet pressure." In the spa, the sign reads, "International Massage Club." 

What I like about this cartoon is that the pun transcends language barriers. The image is unmistakably legible in both Arabic and English.

Mustafa Hussein, 79, drew this political cartoon for the Egyptian state newspaper Al-AkhbarHis face is in the upper lefthand corner of the cartoon, as per the Egyptian tradition.

Hussein loves to render countries as women, often sexualizing and fetishizing the state. In this case, Hussein draws Washington as a voluptuous woman as method of symbolic violence; in the highly gendered (and gender-normative) world of Egyptian cartooning, rendering a country or character as a woman is the equivalent of a full frontal attack. Yes, it’s sexist and misogynistic. Cartoonists, however, traffic in blunt and abrasive symbology, so it’s not wholly surprising. 

Hussein’s illustrations demarcate the baseline of political expression in the state newspaper. In them, America is usually depicted as a man—a bungling Uncle Sam. The US as saucy masseuse represents a departure.

This cartoon from last month, for instance, shows two Uncle Sams, both of whom are very out of touch with the situation on the Nile.

"Look, brother, at the audacity of those Egyptians…. They don’t want us to interfere in their affairs?!"

Mustafa Hussein / Al-Akhbar / 11 June 2014

**

More of Hussein’s illustrations here here here here here here and here . 

"Gaza Gaza Gaza…" says the man on the right.
"Never heard of it. Where is that?" says the sheik on the left.
Anwar / Al-Masry Al-Youm (Egypt) / 10 July 2014
***
One of the many cartoons about the Arab reaction to Gaza’s bombardment. Here are a few more:

"Rescuing Gaza," has many ‘likes’ on Facebook, in a cartoon labeled "Arab action." 
Aimantoon / Al-Shark (Saudi Arabia) / 10 July 2014


"Hey waiter, more coal!"
Mohamed Sabry / Facebook (Egypt) / 9 July 2014

"Gaza Gaza Gaza…" says the man on the right.

"Never heard of it. Where is that?" says the sheik on the left.

Anwar / Al-Masry Al-Youm (Egypt) / 10 July 2014

***

One of the many cartoons about the Arab reaction to Gaza’s bombardment. Here are a few more:

"Rescuing Gaza," has many ‘likes’ on Facebook, in a cartoon labeled "Arab action." 

Aimantoon / Al-Shark (Saudi Arabia) / 10 July 2014

"Hey waiter, more coal!"

Mohamed Sabry / Facebook (Egypt) / 9 July 2014

"Independence in its Truest Form”

The Cairo Review of Global Affairs' new issue explores the Mobility of Art. I don’t know what’s more exciting—our interview with Ai Weiwei or that the Egyptian artist Ganzeer has written a manifesto for the edition. As my boss Scott Macleod writes, “Ai and Ganzeer are artists of our globalized age, who transcend borders, cultures, and indeed our conventional ideas about art.”

Ganzeer is challenging just about everyone through his comix, exhibitions, graphic design, speaking, and writing. His essay, "Concept Pop," is a call for agitating works that go beyond the confines of Concept Art or Pop Art. He pans those artists who think Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain is the be-all and end-all of creativity:

What is most perverse of all is that there are a bunch of thirty-something artists in Egypt today who think of themselves as cutting edge for adopting a 1917 art form that most Egyptians do not relate to—they adopt it anyway out of an urge to appeal to art institutions centered in Europe and the USA.

Such an art form has no place in Egypt’s revolutionary climate. Although many Westerners may want to believe that Egyptians revolted against our regime out of a desire to adopt more “Western” values—or Western products, as was suggested by French author Guy Sorman in a public debate with me in 2011—in fact Egyptians were revolting against a bad regime that had taken much of its legitimacy from other world powers while simultaneously revolting against the conformist traditions of older generations. What the Egyptian people sought was independence in its truest form. Although Egyptians have obviously failed badly at achieving that (for now), it does not mean that the effects of the revolution should not find their way into art and culture. Conceptual Art in Egypt, with its compass oriented to point north-west, proves itself to be a rather anti-revolutionary art form. Which could very well explain the rise of Concept Pop.

As an example of Concept Pop, Ganzeer cites Ahmed Hefnawy’s Revolution Museum, which was exhibited at the Viennoise Hotel in Cairo last December—where the experience of a flying tear gas canister was recreated. 

It’s important to note that Ganzeer has become persona non-grata in Egypt. As I reported for the New Yorker in May, “In Cairo, art has come to be regarded as such a dangerous weapon that… a prominent artist was falsely accused of being a terrorist.” Here’s the background:

The artist, Ganzeer, is one of the few agitators to have rendered Sisi, publishing an inflammatory portrait online. After Ganzeer’s collaboration in a global graffiti campaign against Sisi attracted the attention of the television host Osama Kamal, Kamal wrongly called Ganzeer a member of the Muslim Brotherhood—which was outlawed by the Egyptian state in December. Ganzeer’s tag is known from Cairo to Vienna, but he had previously remained anonymous. Nevertheless, the broadcaster aired a photo of him on the evening news, using his real name as a scare tactic. It was startling because the thirty-two-year-old graphic artist has produced a vitriolic body of work against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. “Being anti-Sisi in itself is not a crime,” Ganzeer wrote on his blog. “So I guess Mr. Osama thought it necessary to attach a fictitious crime to my name.”

Now based in New York, Ganzeer is busy creating new works and speaking around town. I urge you to peruse through his website, Ganzeer.com, a dynamic gallery of new and old works. This 2011 poster, The Mask of Freedom, is one piece in particular that continues to resonate in Cairo and beyond.

Ganzeer, The Mask of Freedom.  May 2011, Cairo, Egypt

***

More posts on Ganzeer here

Good Morning, Iraq

A selection of new political cartoons by Abdul Raheem Yassir, 63, an Iraqi who illustrates for the Al-Sabah newspaper. Despite the universality and legibility of Yassir’s incisive cartoons, very little has been written about him in English. I hope some enterprising reporter in Baghdad tracks him down.

For more on the artist, read my post from last month: “I became a soldier. Although I did not stop painting.”

Plus, Arabic speakers might find this Al-Arabiyya interview with Yassir of interest. 

This piece was shown at the Iraq Pavilion at 55th Venice Biennale, 2013. 

Abdul Raheem Yassir, Miscellaneous cartoons, 2003 - 2013, ink on paper, each 21 x 29.7 cm. Via Ibraaz.

***

A portrait of Yassir, from his Facebook page.

"The Witness"

As the murder of three Israeli teens spurs further violence across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, I wanted to post some cartoons by the infamous Palestinian illustrator Naji Al-Ali. 

Al-Ali himself was the target of extralegal violence and emblemizes the tragedy of Palestine. By way of a brief background:

Twenty-six years ago, a cartoonist was gunned down on the streets of London. The assassins of Palestinian illustrator Naji Al-Ali were never apprehended. Yet, the attempt to silence his voice proved ineffective. 

The signature character in Al-Ali’s cartoons was Handala, a young Palestinian boy observing the world’s tragedies. Handala’s back always faces the reader, situating him or her in the vantage point of the shoeless refugee boy. The viewer experiences Palestine and Israel through Handala, though Al-Ali’s pen also indicted Arab regimes, the U.S. and other enablers of Palestine’s refugee crisis. This act of witnessing has had a major impact on the region, and its cartoonists. Handala has been painted on the separation wall that splits Palestine and Israel, on barricades encircling Cairo’s interior ministry, and in Morocco’s medinas. 

With a Palestinian-American teen beaten yesterday, the top image—of Handala struck by an arrow—captured the angst and sorrow I was feeling about the situation.

The color images above are by Iraqi artist Hani Mazhar, who draws inspiration from Al-Ali, and presented these works last year at Katara, a cultural village funded by the Qatari state. It was apparently the first time that Al-Ali’s cartoons were presented in the Middle East:

“These paintings are aimed at paying homage to Naji Al Ali. I want to show the people the aesthetic side of his cartoons, not only the political message, which is very important to me because Naji Al Ali’s image in the media was limited to being a cartoonist only, not as an artist. For me it is very important to show his other side,” said Mazhar.

Above the Fold

Historic days call for historic fonts. Like last year, when the Egyptian Armed Forces gave a 48-hour ultimatum to then President Mohammed Morsi.

On July 3, 2013, the state’s flagship newspaper, Al-Ahram, enlisted a calligrapher to pen the top headline. No basic Arabic font would suffice for: 

THE FINAL WARNING (July 2, 2013)

or 

TODAY… DISMISSAL OR RESIGNATION (July 3, 2013).

Like a cat lady, I saved a stack of every newspaper from the week of Morsi’s ouster. So I can safely say that only Al-Ahram had a calligrapher on hand; a dozen other newspapers just enlarged their usual fonts, which made for lackluster headlines. There’s something about those sharp red pen strokes that grab my attention.

Who is the man who holds Egypt’s most important pen? Reporter Jahd Khalil interviewed the scribe himself, Mohamed Al Maghraby, "whose job is literally to write the first draft of history." Khalil reports:

Every Egyptian newspaper reader is familiar with his work — a bold, crisp and simplified version of the Riqaa script (which most resembles handwriting), rendered in large, fire engine red.

Maghraby has only written 17 front-page titles in his 22-year career at Al-Ahram. This week he wrote two. Sunday, for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s inauguration, he wrote “A Red-Letter Day for a Great People’s History.” This headline was particularly difficult, especially the words “history” and “great.”

(Photo courtesy of Jahd Khalil / Mada Masr)

Maghraby first became interested in calligraphy when he was young, growing up in a village in Daqahliya. His mother, who he describes as “a cultured rural woman,” got him interested in both poetry and the art of calligraphy.

His position as a newspaper calligrapher is highly unusual. Al-Akhbar is the only other Egyptian publication with an in-house calligrapher, and he is not very active due to his advanced age. Other major pan-Arab outlets don’t employ calligraphers.

Maghraby had to teach himself how to adapt the styles of traditional calligraphy for a headline’s width and height. A calligrapher in his position needs to be flexible and to keep up with the speed at which a newsroom operates.

“I can write these headlines in 5 minutes,” he says. “It’s journalism after all.”

For more on the "visual identity" of Arabic fonts, watch this great video featuring my colleague from the American University in Cairo, Professor Bahia Shehab:

Mickey Comics from 1984

When you’re pantless, there’s no belt to tighten 
Anwar, drawing for the privately-owned Al-Masry Al-Youm, criticizes Egypt’s new budget, which was approved by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi today. Sisi has been pushing for austerity since he took office last month; to get the point across, he vowed to half his salary (which obviously was fodder for cartoonists). Such a public show, however, doesn’t mask the severity of the economic policies that he is promoting. In order to balance the ledger, the economic plan will surely take the form of reduced energy and food subsidies. 
“Mubarak’s rule was characterised by crony capitalism, stoking public discontent that helped to fuel the uprising,” writes Shadia Nasralla for Reuters. “But Sisi’s call for Egyptians to tighten their belts may ring hollow to the millions who already struggle with multiple low-paid jobs to make ends meet.” Perhaps that’s why the budget’s details and timeline have yet to be released.
Above is the timeframe for "Austerity" that Anwar forecasts for the fiscal year. (Read it right to left, dear English speakers). And here’s a mini-bio of the cartoonist, who I profiled in Guernica:

At the end of each day, Anwar carries home a stack of almost every newspaper sold at his corner kiosk. “You should always be extremely up to date,” he says. “The daily cartoonist has this kind of fitness, like an athlete.” Although he regularly wades into the minutia of Egyptian public affairs, he’s unable to vote. The son of a Sudanese diplomat, Anwar was raised in Saudi Arabia and came of age in Egypt, where he eventually enrolled in a bioengineering program. He began submitting cartoons to a small, independent newspaper in 2008. “So what are you? A cartoonist or an engineer?” he remembers being asked by the veteran opposition illustrator Amro Selim. Before long, Anwar dropped out of school to pursue caricature full time.

Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr.

When you’re pantless, there’s no belt to tighten 

Anwar, drawing for the privately-owned Al-Masry Al-Youm, criticizes Egypt’s new budget, which was approved by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi today. Sisi has been pushing for austerity since he took office last month; to get the point across, he vowed to half his salary (which obviously was fodder for cartoonists). Such a public show, however, doesn’t mask the severity of the economic policies that he is promoting. In order to balance the ledger, the economic plan will surely take the form of reduced energy and food subsidies

Mubarak’s rule was characterised by crony capitalism, stoking public discontent that helped to fuel the uprising,” writes Shadia Nasralla for Reuters. “But Sisi’s call for Egyptians to tighten their belts may ring hollow to the millions who already struggle with multiple low-paid jobs to make ends meet.” Perhaps that’s why the budget’s details and timeline have yet to be released.

Above is the timeframe for "Austerity" that Anwar forecasts for the fiscal year. (Read it right to left, dear English speakers). And here’s a mini-bio of the cartoonist, who I profiled in Guernica:

At the end of each day, Anwar carries home a stack of almost every newspaper sold at his corner kiosk. “You should always be extremely up to date,” he says. “The daily cartoonist has this kind of fitness, like an athlete.” Although he regularly wades into the minutia of Egyptian public affairs, he’s unable to vote. The son of a Sudanese diplomat, Anwar was raised in Saudi Arabia and came of age in Egypt, where he eventually enrolled in a bioengineering program. He began submitting cartoons to a small, independent newspaper in 2008. “So what are you? A cartoonist or an engineer?” he remembers being asked by the veteran opposition illustrator Amro Selim. Before long, Anwar dropped out of school to pursue caricature full time.

Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr.

"Ramadan Brings Us Together"
Andeel / Facebook / July 2013
Follow Andeel on Twitter and Facebook.
***

"Where are you going?" 
"I’m going to fast" 
Hegazi / Sameer Magazine / 1968
More cartoons on the holy month here here here and here. 

"Ramadan Brings Us Together"

Andeel / Facebook / July 2013

Follow Andeel on Twitter and Facebook.

***

"Where are you going?" 

"I’m going to fast" 

Hegazi / Sameer Magazine / 1968

More cartoons on the holy month here here here and here

"Double Crime" and "The Punishment"

At Cairo’s book market, I picked up these hard-boiled thrillers—a two-part series, by Normal Daniels and translated into Arabic by Ahmed Adel, from 1967. 

Doing a quick background check on the author, I came up with this:

Norman Daniels was born in Connecticut. He attended Columbia and Northwestern Universities, and worked at a number of jobs before turning to writing full-time in the 1930’s. He married the former Dorothy Smith in 1931.

Daniels’ best-known creation during the era of the pulp thriller magazines was Tony Quinn, “the Black Bat,” whose adventures he chronicled in Black Book Detective from 1939 TO 1952. He also contributed to the Doc Savage, Phantom Detective, and Don Winslow of the Navy series, among others, and wrote stories in the sports, science fiction, western, and other genres.

In the broadcast field, Daniels wrote a number of scripts and stories for radio, and worked as scriptwriter for the Nick Carter radio series. In the 1950’s Daniels sold dramas and Westerns to television, and saw two of his short stories adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Through the 1960’s and 70’s Daniels wrote for mystery magazines and mass-market paperbacks. His books include spy thrillers, adaptations of television shows, doctor and nurse novels, Gothics and romances, some of which were published under the name of his wife Dorothy.

Did Daniels have any idea that his writing was being translated into Arabic?

***

Prof. Ahmed’s stall at Cairo’s Ezbekia Book Market, featuring vintage erotic fiction and Disney comix. Tell him I sent you.

More Arabic noirs here.

"Prevention of ‘People of Alexandria" from being shown this Ramadan"
With the cancellation of a TV series on police corruption, Makhlouf draws a sleazy puppet master for his daily contribution to the privately-owned Al-Masry Al-Youm. Though billboards for ‘People of Alexandria’ can still be found in Cairo, the show won’t be screened this Ramadan. (In addition to being a holy month, Ramadan is prime TV season in Egypt and across the Arab World, as families sit together watching premieres of blockbusters and soap operas while breaking the daily fast.)
“This kind of masked censorship did not even happen in the era of Hosni Mubarak,” said the show’s writer Belal Fadl, a vocal critic of the regime. Censors told him that, “the series involves elements that could upset the police or stir a political crisis.” Fadl’s commentary on the series’ cancellation is damning.

“I know many refuse to believe the fact that freedoms are deteriorating in Egypt every day. I’ve been warning against this for months through my articles published in Al-Shorouk newspaper, which were banned for similar reasons,” he said. “I know that many will use the excuses of maintaining stability to justify violations of public, political, and media freedoms.”

Mada Masr’s report on the politics of Egyptian television is worth reading in full. 
As for which program I will be glued to next month, Doha-based cartoonist Khalid Albaih summed it up last summer:

"Which soap operas are you watching this Ramadan?"
"Egypt."
***
Read my profile of Albaih here.
More cartoons by Makhlouf here.

"Prevention of ‘People of Alexandria" from being shown this Ramadan"

With the cancellation of a TV series on police corruption, Makhlouf draws a sleazy puppet master for his daily contribution to the privately-owned Al-Masry Al-Youm. Though billboards for ‘People of Alexandria’ can still be found in Cairo, the show won’t be screened this Ramadan. (In addition to being a holy month, Ramadan is prime TV season in Egypt and across the Arab World, as families sit together watching premieres of blockbusters and soap operas while breaking the daily fast.)

“This kind of masked censorship did not even happen in the era of Hosni Mubarak,” said the show’s writer Belal Fadl, a vocal critic of the regime. Censors told him that, “the series involves elements that could upset the police or stir a political crisis.” Fadl’s commentary on the series’ cancellation is damning.

“I know many refuse to believe the fact that freedoms are deteriorating in Egypt every day. I’ve been warning against this for months through my articles published in Al-Shorouk newspaper, which were banned for similar reasons,” he said. “I know that many will use the excuses of maintaining stability to justify violations of public, political, and media freedoms.”

Mada Masr’s report on the politics of Egyptian television is worth reading in full. 

As for which program I will be glued to next month, Doha-based cartoonist Khalid Albaih summed it up last summer:

"Which soap operas are you watching this Ramadan?"

"Egypt."

***

Read my profile of Albaih here.

More cartoons by Makhlouf here.

"This is the space allowed for today’s cartoon. Thank you." - #freedom
Egyptian cartoonist Andeel drew this for the independent English-Arabic news site Mada Masr. The illustration is a dark reminder of what is not being published, shining a torch on the formal and informal restrictions in the Egyptian press. For instance, as a Cairo court sentenced Al Jazeera journalists today, there were no cartoons on the topic in local papers. 
Andeel is intimately familiar with the limits placed on cartoonists. He had drawn daily from the widely-circulated private Egyptian paper Al-Masry Al-Youm, until he hit his breaking point. As I reported in Guernica,

In October, Andeel vented to his Facebook followers: “Since June 30 and until now, the amount of drawings against the coup that Al-Masry Al-Youm has prevented me from publishing is greater than the [time of the] Brotherhood.” He immediately became a celebrity of the anti-coup movement. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice newspaper carried his update under the headline “Freedom of Expression Declined After the Coup.” It was an unexpected turn. Andeel had drawn Morsi in every derogatory pose imaginable, and his brother had been arrested by Morsi’s henchmen.
“I quit the newspaper after they got angry about that,” Andeel says of his colleagues’ rebuke. “It’s such a risk to make your life in cartoons in Egypt,” he says sarcastically, but adds, “I would have had to very intensely water down my language, be way more patient and pragmatic to deliver my message.”

For Andeel, principles trump pragmatism—”sticking to principles, even if you lose,” as he told me in April. “Because by doing that, you are proving to people that actually the principles are important. They have a much longer lifespan than daily or monthly or yearly benefits.”
Cartoons are not the only creative medium that has been subject to bowdlerization. Yesterday, Mada Masr reported the cancellation of a Ramadan TV serial, written by renown satirist Belal Fadl. Previously a contributor to the privately-owned Al-Shorouk newspaper, Fadl resigned in February, when editors cut a controversial column. Taken together, these developments signal doom and gloom.
But the always jocular Andeel somehow finds a positive message:  ”When the authority or the regime—or whatever kind of force—is assaulting, it is exposing itself. Like in football, when you are attacking, your defense lines are high so you are exposed.” With dissenting creators on the defensive, Andeel is still attacking. 

Andeel, left, at the launch of comic zine Tok Tok’s tenth issue, March 2014. Read my profile of him in Guernica. 
Follow Andeel on Twitter and Facebook.

"This is the space allowed for today’s cartoon. Thank you." - #freedom

Egyptian cartoonist Andeel drew this for the independent English-Arabic news site Mada Masr. The illustration is a dark reminder of what is not being published, shining a torch on the formal and informal restrictions in the Egyptian press. For instance, as a Cairo court sentenced Al Jazeera journalists today, there were no cartoons on the topic in local papers. 

Andeel is intimately familiar with the limits placed on cartoonists. He had drawn daily from the widely-circulated private Egyptian paper Al-Masry Al-Youm, until he hit his breaking point. As I reported in Guernica,

In October, Andeel vented to his Facebook followers: “Since June 30 and until now, the amount of drawings against the coup that Al-Masry Al-Youm has prevented me from publishing is greater than the [time of the] Brotherhood.” He immediately became a celebrity of the anti-coup movement. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice newspaper carried his update under the headline “Freedom of Expression Declined After the Coup.” It was an unexpected turn. Andeel had drawn Morsi in every derogatory pose imaginable, and his brother had been arrested by Morsi’s henchmen.

“I quit the newspaper after they got angry about that,” Andeel says of his colleagues’ rebuke. “It’s such a risk to make your life in cartoons in Egypt,” he says sarcastically, but adds, “I would have had to very intensely water down my language, be way more patient and pragmatic to deliver my message.”

For Andeel, principles trump pragmatism—”sticking to principles, even if you lose,” as he told me in April. “Because by doing that, you are proving to people that actually the principles are important. They have a much longer lifespan than daily or monthly or yearly benefits.”

Cartoons are not the only creative medium that has been subject to bowdlerization. Yesterday, Mada Masr reported the cancellation of a Ramadan TV serial, written by renown satirist Belal Fadl. Previously a contributor to the privately-owned Al-Shorouk newspaper, Fadl resigned in February, when editors cut a controversial column. Taken together, these developments signal doom and gloom.

But the always jocular Andeel somehow finds a positive message:  ”When the authority or the regime—or whatever kind of force—is assaulting, it is exposing itself. Like in football, when you are attacking, your defense lines are high so you are exposed.” With dissenting creators on the defensive, Andeel is still attacking. 

Andeel, left, at the launch of comic zine Tok Tok’s tenth issue, March 2014. Read my profile of him in Guernica

Follow Andeel on Twitter and Facebook.

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