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Herald political cartoonist fired

Published: 6:08PM Wednesday August 13, 2003

The Herald newspaper has sacked its award-winning cartoonist following a censorship row.

Malcolm Evans was dismissed after drawing a series of cartoons criticising the Israeli government's treatment of the Palestinian people.

Some Jews complained about the cartoon which used the Star of David as a symbol of Israel.

Goeff Levy of the Auckland Jewish Council said: "The apartheid cartoon was offensive to Judaism and members of the Jewish community."

But Evans refused to be censored about what he draws. He said Herald management tried to stop him drawing any more cartoons about Israel.

"I think readers respect the cartoon as an independent comment of the cartoonist... If you genetically engineer so that that perspective is altered you're committing a fraud on the reader." Evans said.

But Herald Editor Gavin Ellis is denying Evan's claims.

"Malcolm Evans is quoted in the Waikato Times today as claiming he was sacked for refusing to stop drawing cartoons critical of Israel's government. That claim is incorrect and is denied. On legal advice, given that this is a matter between an independent contractor and the New Zealand Herald, I cannot comment further."

Another cartoonist, Tom Scott, complimented the work Evans was doing.

"He's been terrifically brave on the Arab/Israeli conflict. He certainly has a particular point of view but that is why you hire cartoonists. They have to have a point of view and sometimes they don't always agree with the editors point of view." Scott said.

In June the Herald responded to criticism of the cartoon in an editorial.

"Criticism of Israel is, in the minds of some, criticism of all of Judaism. Yes, there are some for whom that may be the case; people whose views are driven by prejudice. That is not to say, however, that all criticism of the Israeli government's policy in relation to Palestinians is based on such prejudice, Far from it. There are legitimate criticisms to be made of those policies, just as Palestinians can be called to account for their unacceptable retribution on innocent Israeli citizens," the Herald wrote.

Evans said he is not anti-semitic but believes the situation in Israel is flawed.

"I think for the record the Holocaust was the most disgraceful crime in living history. "But it doesn't make what the Israeli's are doing in Palestine right," Evans said.

Evans' cartoon suggested the situation in the West Bank amounted to Apartheid.

Evans has been a professional cartoonist since the 1960's and has worked for the Herald for the past seven years. He recently won a Qantas media award for "Cartoonist of the Year '. He is married with four daughters.

For now Evans says he will turn his attention from pen and paper to wax and bronze.

Whatever his materials, he says he'll continue to stand up for free speech.

"It's one thing to be rejected, it's completely another thing to be directed," Evans said.

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