An Amnesty International campaign is using LGA cartoonist James Mellor’s work to raise awareness of a media clampdown in Turkey.
Since last July’s failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, it’s believed more than 120 journalists have been arrested and at least 156 of the country’s news outlets closed.
The media blackout has been widely condemned by democratic leaders while hundreds of cartoonists have supported Amnesty International’s call to #FreeTurkeyMedia.
Among those flooding social media channels with politically sharp, sad and funny cartoons was LGA Associate James Mellor, who responded to Amnesty’s plea to post a “solidarity selfie” using the campaign hashtag.
“My cartoons are not usually overtly political,” says James, who was responsible for bringing LGA’s office cat Chloe to life on LGA’s new website when it launched in February. “I work in the corporate world, promoting and supporting businesses. However, politics and business overlap and, from time to time, my cartoons take a more political slant.
“When I take a swipe at a person or institution in power, I have little cause to live in fear afterwards. But this isn’t the case the world over and I am acutely aware that many do not share in the freedom I have.”
Through an online community of artists and cartoonists who regularly share their work online, James became aware of a separate campaign to free ‘Eaten Fish’ earlier this year. The pseudonym belongs to a young Iranian cartoonist and asylum seeker detained in an Australian refugee rendition camp in Papua New Guinea since 2013.
“My involvement in the Eaten Fish campaign led me to the story of Musa Kart, who is one of many artists, journalists and comedians imprisoned in Turkey,” says James.
“Of all the journalists imprisoned around the world, approximately one third of them are held in Turkey.”
James added: “Political cartoonists are sometimes referred to as ‘canaries in the coal mine’ as they are often first to be censored in a repressive regime.
“If an artist is free to mock or chide those in power without fear of reprisal, it is a sign that they are working in a free, democratic society. If not, there is cause for concern. The fact that cartoonists are among the first to be targeted goes to show the power that cartoons can have.”
Scores of cartoons submitted since the #FreeTurkeyMedia campaign launched in March have now been entered into a competition and a shortlist, to be judged by a panel of world-renowned cartoonists. Winners will be announced later this month.
James, who was recently admitted as a member of the Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain – the UK’s largest and oldest organisation for professional cartoonists – works with a wide variety of private companies and organisations. Among his latest commissions was a series of cartoon illustrations for the Damilola Taylor Trust’s Career Pathway Programme, in association with Lysis Financial. The programme aims to introduce 18-25 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds to different roles in the banking and financial sector.
James’ first book of cartoons, Drawn From History – A Cartoon Journey Through Britain’s Past, was released in late 2016.
“It’s quite hard finding humour in history while remaining respectful, especially when you’re tackling subjects within living memory, such as the world wars,” says James. “The book generated a lot of interest and led to a number of opportunities to discuss my work – including a personal invitation from a peer to the House of Lords.”
Drawn From History – A Cartoon Journey Through Britain’s Past by James Mellor is available to buy from www.jamesmellorcreative.com
For more on the #FreeTurkeyMedia campaign, click here