Musa Kart, who was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison over “aiding terrorist organizations,” was awarded the 2018 International Press Cartoon Prize by the Swiss Foundation Cartooning for Peace.
Due to being given a jail sentence pending trial, Kart wasn’t able to travel to Geneva to collect the prestigious prize. Instead, his wife Sevinç Kart traveled to Geneva to receive the award on May 3.
Speaking at the ceremony, Kart read out a message from her husband after being handed the award by Le Monde cartoonist Plantu.
“I really wish I could be among you today, but it seems that those who don’t like my cartoons also don’t like me to meet with you. Maybe this is the reason for why they banned me from traveling abroad, but I wish I could be there to hug and thank you,” Musa Kart said in his message, as he added that the award “honored me and gave me strength.”
“You reminded me once again that I’m a member of world cartoonists family,” he also said.
Saying that he has been passionate about cartoons for the past 40 years, Kart noted that he has been drawing for Cumhuriyet for the past 25 years.
“The newspaper I work for has always defended universal values, such as democracy, secularism, human rights, superiority of law, peace and women’s rights. That’s why, it has always been the target of anti-democratic forces and its columnists were killed in the previous years,” Kart added.
In his message, Kart said that he has been living under the threat of punishment for the past 15 years, while also noting that numbers of cases were filed against him.
“I’ve always believed and still believe in the modifying, transformative and healing power of cartoons,” he said.
“Today, my dear newspaper is surrounded by those who want to destroy it. Those who are bothered by its critical stance want to silence it completely with the heaviest punishment threats,” he added.
Saying that Cumhuriyet columnists and staff, who were also handed jail sentences ranging from 2,5 to eight years over terror charges, didn’t change their stances throughout the trial process, Kart noted that “closing remarks of my friends [in court] will be with me until the end of my life.”
“If you don’t mind, I want to share my award with my fellow courageous, honorable and honest friends, who are sought to be put into jail once again in the upcoming months,” Kart said, while also thanking Plantu and other jury members for their “extraordinary support.”
The award, which is presented biannually in Geneva, was given to Kart, who served nine months in jail before being freed pending trial, for “his talent and courage in the defense of freedom of expression.”
"The jury has chosen Musa Kart, iconic cartoonist of the Istanbul newspaper Cumhuriyet, for his talent and courage in the defense of freedom of expression," read a statement from the foundation on May 3, while also marking World Press Freedom Day.
“As a tribute to the courage and determination of cartoonists in defending freedom of expression, the International Press Cartoon Prize honors press cartoonists who are in danger because of their art. The 3rd of May is also marked by the inauguration of an exhibition of press cartoons dedicated to human rights, to be seen on the shores of Lake Geneva,” the statement added.
Kart’s artworks, as well as support cartoons of his colleagues from all over the world, will be exhibited throughout May, according to the foundation.
The prize was judged by an official from Geneva’s government, Human Rights Watch chair Kenneth Roth, along with cartoonists from leading publications including Le Monde, the New York Times and the New Yorker.
“Musa Kart is both a witness and especially a victim of the deterioration of freedom of expression in Turkey,” Plantu said in a statement.