Magazine article Editor & Publisher

At-Risk Artists Can Draw on Cartoon Network for Support

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

At-Risk Artists Can Draw on Cartoon Network for Support

Article excerpt

The Cartoonists Relief Network (CRN) is only 2 years old, but its genesis dates back to 1989.

CRN director Robert Russell was in Sri Lanka that year, working in one of the community-development/humanitarian-relief jobs he held during a career spent mostly in Asia and Africa. One day, he read in the opposition press about Jiffry Yoonoos, who was beaten for a cartoon that angered Sri Lanka's president.

"In Third World countries, criticizing the big man is usually taboo," says Russell.

The future CRN founder visited Yoonoos and asked him what kind of help he needed. Russell expected a request for a big international investigation, but Yoonoos said: "If I'm killed, I want someone to pay for my children's schooling."

CRN hasn't had the funds so far to give much financial help to at-risk editorial cartoonists. Russell runs the Arlington, Va.-based organization on a shoestring annual budget of under $5,000, much of it from money he earns doing human-rights consulting and helping development agencies write grant proposals.

Russell hopes CRN - which recently came under the tax-exempt umbrella of the New York Foundation for the Arts - will, within two years, have a budget big enough to pay lawyers to represent beleaguered cartoonists, give stipends to their families, and more. To do this, Russell is seeking grants and more contributions, some of which come from cartoonists who send money directly or have people buying their originals send the checks to CRN.

In the meantime, Russell tries to contact jailed or otherwise endangered cartoonists to give them moral support. "People in that situation feel frightened and completely isolated," says Russell. "Knowing that colleagues around the world know and care about their plight is a tremendous morale boost."

Russell and/or CRN supporters also visit embassy officials, write letters to governmental authorities urging them to release imprisoned cartoonists, send handbooks with defensive-living tips to cartoonists in danger, try to find paying clients for at-risk cartoonists, offer an "Art to Die For" exhibit of the work of threatened cartoonists, and more. …

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