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Zapiro wins 2012 IPA Freedom to Publish Prize

For his exemplary courage in upholding freedom to publish, Jonathan 'Zapiro' Shapiro has been named the recipient of this year's IPA Freedom to Publish Prize. IPA President YoungSuk "Y.S." Chi will formally present the award during the closing ceremony of the 29th Congress of the International Publishers Association (IPA) at the CTICC on 14 June 2012.
Jonathan 'Zapiro' Shapiro. Source:
Brian Wafawarowa, executive director of the Publishers Association of South Africa (PASA), will deliver the keynote speech.

History of activism

Born in 1958 in Cape Town, Shapiro is South Africa's best-known and possibly most successful cartoonist. In 1987, he started as an editorial cartoonist for South newspaper. The following year, security police detained him without trial as a political activist, shortly before leaving on a Fulbright Scholarship to the School of Visual Arts in New York.

Since his return to South Africa in 1991, Shapiro has drawn educational comics on subjects such as AIDS, democracy and child abuse prevention. His work has been featured in both solo and group cartoon exhibitions in South Africa and internationally and he regularly speaks and offers workshops on cartooning.

Since 1996, he has published 17 annual cartoon collections. In 2008, he published an additional collection entitled The Mandela Files, a collection of cartoons featuring Nelson Mandela, as a tribute to the former president. From 2003 to 2006, he attended the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, as one of a group of invited cartoonists and he is involved in the Cartooning for Peace initiative, a project started in October 2006 following the "Unlearning Intolerance" conference at the UN Headquarters in New York. He also continues to draw cartoons for many South African newspapers, including Mail & Guardian, the Sunday Times and The Times.

In 2006, Jacob Zuma sued Zapiro for R15 million over three cartoons done during Jacob Zuma's rape trial (he was acquitted). The amount demanded has been reduced but the lawsuit has not been withdrawn.

In 2008, Zuma sued Avusa Media, the publisher of Sunday Times, the ex-editor of the newspaper, and Shapiro over a September 2008 political cartoon by Zapiro depicting President Zuma about to rape "Lady Justice". Zuma is still pursuing this case and seeking R5 million for defamation. The first court hearing, before Johannesburg's High Court, is due to take place on 25 October 2012.

Call for acquittal

Bjørn Smith-Simonsen, chair of IPA's Freedom to Publish Committee, commented, "Shapiro has had the enormous courage to draw and publish essential and often controversial, political cartoons in newspapers and books for many years now. He has also been remarkably consistent in his fight for freedom of expression during the apartheid era and in the years since it ended. He has been criticized and publicly intimidated in South Africa, and has even received death threats. The defamation lawsuit initiated against him by the country's president is set to begin on 25 October 2012.

"Despite the lawsuit, Jonathan Shapiro is not afraid. In fact, he is one of the brave voices speaking out against the dangers of corruption and authoritarianism, thus using with courage - through subversive humour - his right to freedom of expression and freedom to publish. Jonathan Shapiro exemplifies everything that the IPA Freedom to Publish prize stands for.

"We therefore call for Jonathan Shapiro's acquittal and on his government to stop using defamation lawsuits as a tool to stifle freedom of expression, and in this regard to uphold Article 16 of the South African Constitution, Article 12 of the 2002 Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights".

Patriotic sceptic

In accepting the award, Shapiro said, "It is an honour to receive such a meaningful award, one that has previously been given to courageous writers and activists under threat all over the world and to receive it right now in South Africa is of particular significance to me. The African National Congress, the very movement that brought democracy to South Africa, now as the ruling party responds to criticism by curtailing the spread of information and by stifling freedom of expression. Journalists, whistle-blowers, corruption-busters, cultural activists and even judges have been targeted. Politicians who demand that artists and writers conform will find that many of us consider it our duty to be patriotic sceptics."

For more, go to To register to attend the award ceremony, taking place at 4pm at CTICC, email Cheryl Marsh at .