The cartoon, a fundamental right

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The cartoon, a fundamental right

La viñeta, un derecho fundamentalThe cartoon, a fundamental right.

In 2017, professional cartoonists from all backgrounds, sensibilities and continents came together around a project: to have cartoons in the press recognised as a fundamental right on an international scale.

While freedom of expression, in general, is a fundamental right recognised as such, although it is often violated, as demonstrated in the case of the cartoons in the press, the aim here is to promote and defend the right to freedom of expression a multitude of casesThe aim here is to promote and defend its use through what is specific to press cartoons: humour, mockery, irony, criticism, denouncement..

There are countries where a cartoon can land its author in prison for a variety of offences such as sedition or incitement to rebellion, insults, offences against feelings and/or religious symbols, insults to national emblems, institutions, kings or rulers, incitement to disturb the public order, including terrorism charges and other capricious interpretations of laws related to expression and the press.

Thus, to date, more than 400 cartoonists recognised international organisations have drafted and signed a declaration.

This declaration was presented to ADDIS-ABEBA on 3 May 2019, World Press Freedom Day. It was during the World Press Freedom Day international conference of the same year, organised on this occasion by UNESCO, the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the African Union.


1. We solemnly recall that the freedom to draw is a fundamental right enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. Similarly, Resolution 25 C/104 of the UNESCO General Conference in 1989 recalls the right to “thefree flow of ideas by word and image at international and national levels“.

2. We recall the intangible right to the physical integrity of the cartoonist and our opposition to any threat or pressure of any kind against the press cartoonist. We propose that a specific report be submitted each year to the Directorate General of UNESCO and transmitted to the Member States.

3. We call on States and the international community to open processes of discussion and reflection on “the right to satire and irreverence“.

4. We take the initiative planned by several press organisations and ask UNESCO to dedicate a world press day.


5. We ask the Directorate General of UNESCO to convey this statement to the international community at the next UNESCO General Conference.

One step further

Now, this declaration has entered into a new phase and is being transmitted to all member states. To this end, they invite to share this common approach with cartoonists who have not yet signed the declaration. Also with the editors of the newspapers they work for, the associations they work with in the press, culture and other sectors. The aim is to broaden the movement even further and to gain more support.

The cartoon, a fundamental rightSign as a cartoonist, a member of an organisation or a citizen.

The cartoon, a fundamental rightThe process

Not to be forgotten

Spain. Hijacking of the magazine El Jueves and sentencing of the cartoonists Manel Fontdevila and Guillermo Torres

This was perhaps one of the most bloody cases of the hijacking of a satirical publication with the sentencing and fining of two cartoonists in democracy (Read story)

La viñeta, un derecho fundamental
El Jueves no. 1.573

On 20 July 2007, Judge del Olmo ordered the seizure of issue 1,573 of the magazine El Jueves(see order) and requested that all copies be withdrawn from points of sale, the reason being its cover. The prosecutor even ordered the ‘El Jueves’ website to be “disconnected”, although this would hardly have been necessary as it collapsed due to an avalanche of visits. This story had international repercussions.

The Spanish Constitution prohibits prior censorshipof publications, but allows for the seizure of publications once they are on the street if a judge determines that they violate certain fundamental rights.

The drawing by Guillermo with a script by Manel, under the caption “2,500 euros per child” showed a caricature of the then Prince Felipe and Letizia in bed practising the doggy style, the scene illustrated a joke about the Zapatero government’s baby cheque.

The head of the Central Court of Instruction number 6 sent a summons to the editor of the magazine. He requested the identification of the authors of the cover because, allegedly, they could have committed crimes against the Crown under articles 490.3 and 491 of the Penal Code. If so, they faced sentences of up to two years’ imprisonment for slander or insult to the king or his descendants.

One of the most absurd anecdotes was that Judge del Olmo intended to remove “las planchas” from the magazine. Another absurdity was the debate in the media and on the internet about “foul language and rudeness”. As if rudeness were a criminal offence.


On 13 November 2007, they were found guilty of insulting the crown prince. The judge imposed a fine of 3,600 euros (the prosecutor had asked for 6,000 euros) for each of the cartoonists. He considered both the drawing and the text of the cartoon to be “objectively injurious“. The Constitutional Court dismissed the magazine’s appeal against the sentence handed down by the National High Court. It was announced that an appeal would be lodged with the Strasbourg court, but there was no further news.

Related, more than 170 cases worldwide:


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