The accolade, which rewards cartoonist for their talent and commitment to freedom of expression, was presented at a ceremony in Geneva by the honorary president of the Swiss Foundation, former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan
“I am always amazed at the creative wit of these artists who with a single image can capture the paradoxes and absurdity of injustice of a complex problem more effectively than a hundred speeches. Artists like Gado and Zunar are taking risks for speaking truth to power. They deserve all the recognition we can give them which hopefully can also contribute to their protection,” said Kofi Annan, Honorary President of the Swiss Foundation Cartooning for Peace.
“It’s a great encouragement because whatever you have been doing there are people who are behind you and there are people who recognise your efforts and that goes a long way in pushing you forward,” said Gado while commenting on the award.
The two winners have often denounced government corruption and social injustice in their respective countries and have paid the price.
As a cartoonist for the Daily Nation, one of the most important daily newspapers in Central and East Africa, Gado’s sketches depicting politicians as greedy and corrupt have won him a large public following but have also left him jobless.
“I think what we have seen in many African countries is the shrinking space of the media. This space is a contestant space and the challenge is always to protect that space,” added Gado.
Malaysia’s best-known press and comic strip cartoonist, Zunar uses humor and derision to talk about abuse of power and corruption in his country. He is currently the object of legal proceedings and risks a 43-year prison sentence for sedition.
His work is no longer published in traditional media despite the international prizes he has received, including the 2015 Human Rights Watch and International Press Freedom awards.
“This award is very, very important for me because it can create pressure on the Malaysian government and also it will be an eye opener to the international community about my case and also the level of freedom of expression and human rights in Malaysia,” said Zunar, speaking of his award.
The jury of the Cartoons Prize is made up of world-famous cartoonists like Chappatte, Plantu and Liza Donnelly, as well as Kenneth Roth, Director of Human Rights Watch.
Some one hundred cartoons by the laureates and other members of Cartooning for Peace are on display along the banks of Lake Geneva. Topics range from the environment to security, with the plight of migrants topping the agenda.
These are some of the comments of those who attended the function:
“We see migrants arriving here and I think some of these drawings show really well how these people got here.”
“I like the idea that you bring in a different kind of art form to draw attention to political issues around the world and how they interplay with each other, especially bringing in humour to often really grave and disastrous situations that are happening all over the world.”
“I think caricature is a fundamentally important means of expression because it’s funny, it’s quirky, but it also conveys messages very effectively.”
A year and a half after the Charlie Hebdo killings, cartoonists around the world continue their fight for freedom of expression in spite of threats and restrictions.
The cartoons by the Cartooning for Peace laureates are on show along Geneva’s quai Wilson until the 4th of June.