Cartoonist Satish Acharya Quits Mail Today Following Censorship
August 14, 2018
This cartoon by Satish Acharya’s was censored by the editors of the daily tabloid Mail Today. The cartoon cited China’s talons viscously spreading across South Asia. Acharya, in his website, said that the editors of Mail Today cited it as “Very defeatist and the China problem is being overplayed”.
Dwaipayan Bose, the editor of Mail Today, said in a statement, “As a newspaper, we are under no obligation to carry content that fails to pass our editorial standards; the cartoon in question did not. On some other occasions, when his cartoons have been on sensitive issues — including particular communities or courts – we've discussed it with him and carried a mutually agreed revised version. For sure, Acharya has a right to creative differences with us, but so does the newspaper, and to make baseless accusations and try to assign motives where none exist is unethical. We do not act on the dictates of any entity. Our editorial integrity is inviolable — and stays unaffected by Acharya's false allegations.”
This has brought an end to Satish Acharya’s cartoon column in Mail Today. In his website, Satish Acharya has said he has been battling to protect his freedom, and “the sanctity of a cartoon column for many days”. He also explained how much the column means to him: “May be for the editor it’s just three column space, but for a cartoonist it’s a whole world. A world where the cartoonist is free to express his opinion.”
Unlike Bose’s claim that this is the first time Acharya’s cartoon has been dropped, Acharya has said that this comes after a series of rejections. His cartoon on cow was rejected by the editors on simple ground that they were not happy. The cartoon on lynching were rejected because the editor did not like the Muslim angle. Editors were not pleased with the linking of demonetisation with 100% electrification. He was told to replace Prime Minister Modi’s character with any general BJP figure. Others were rejected because it didn’t make sense to the editors and so on.
At a time when the press freedom in India is under attack in both direct and indirect ways, Mail Today’s decision to reject Satish Acharya’s cartoon comes as a setback on their editorial integrity especially on issues critical of government policies such as demonetisation, lynching and Hindutva nationalism. The irony is that many of those rejected cartoons were then used by other clients. Many of them were retweeted, shared and some of them went viral.
As a freelance cartoonist, leaving Mail Today was easy. However, he feels this controversy is more than about him quitting. He thinks this is a fight for his right to do justice to the cartoon space that goes with his name. It’s about the editors respecting the independent expression of the artist and enable them to work without fear or favour.
Donate to the Indian Writers' Forum, a public trust that belongs to all of us.