Cartoonists critical, but defend right to publish

Updated at 6:47 am on 31 May 2013

Two cartoonists are criticising the work of a fellow artist that was the subject of a racism complaint as offensive and inaccurate, but say he has a right to publish his cartoons nonetheless.

Al Nisbet's cartoons of overweight Polynesians celebrating the food in school programmes as an excuse to spend more on "booze, smokes and pokies" were widely condemned after they were published in The Press and Marlborough Express.

Award winning cartoonist Tom Scott says he sees a cartoonist's role as that of a court jester, to make fun of those in power.

Mr Scott says he would not have drawn the comic Al Nisbet did, but defends his right to do so as freedom of expression.

"Personally, 'cos I'm a virtuous, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela type person I don't tend to mock the more helpless people in our society. But he's allowed to, he's hired as a cartoonist to have a point of view.

"I wouldn't have drawn it, I don't think it's particularly funny, but he's entitled to do that sort of thing."

Mr Nisbet defended his work, saying critics need to lighten up. He told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme his cartoons are supposed to be provocative and should not be over-analysed.

Cartoonist Dylan Horrocks says there's a responsibility on political cartoonists to be really informed about what they're commenting on, rather than just going for an easy gag.

"I don't think the sole purpose of a political cartoon is to make a joke, and I think that saying, 'it's a joke, people should lighten up' is never a defence."

Human rights lawyer Michael Bott QC compares the characters in the cartoon to the way Jews were depicted in Nazi Germany and says Race Relations Commissioner should at least meet with Mr Nisbet to tell him his stereotypes are unacceptable.

The commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy, says the cartoon is not racist, but is offensive, and the paper should apologise.

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