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Official complaints laid over controversial cartoons

Published: 8:53AM Friday May 31, 2013 Source: ONE News

The Press Council has received two complaints about controversial cartoons published yesterday in the Marlborough Express and The Press.

The cartoons, by Al Nisbet, depict overweight adults dressed in children's school uniforms joining a line for free school meals, with one portraying the adults as overweight Polynesians.

Both complaints have been sent back to the editors of the publications but if the matter can't be resolved the Press Council will begin a review.

Meanwhile Nisbet is standing by his work, saying New Zealand has got very PC and he gets "really worried when humour gets pulled over like this".

He told Breakfast this morning that he has received hate mail, but also a lot of support.

The cartoons have provoked a lot of comment on social media, with many slamming them as blatant racism .

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Nisbet told Breakfast this morning that he "draws what he sees" and while the cartoons might be seen as a stereotype they are designed to provoke and get a reaction.

There is supposedly an obesity epidemic, as well as poverty issues, he said, adding that initially he was going to focus the cartoons on oldies because he lives in Christchurch which is "very much a white city".

Nisbet feels lucky to have "great editors willing to take a risk and give me a bit of a free reign" and he doesn't believe they should apologise for yesterday's cartoons.

"I don't do cartoons to offend people but want to provoke reaction."

Nisbet says he has done a lot more hard hitting cartoons in the past which got no reaction at all.

"I thought it was an average cartoon, not one of my better ones.

"It's a cartoon, get over it, it's light-hearted, have a laugh."

"Reinforces prejudice"

However media commentator Jim Tully believes that in depicting the dominant characters as cigarette smoking, Lotto-playing Polynesians, Nisbet's work is "extremely unhelpful".

"What we have are unhelpful negative stereotypes that clearly have reinforced prejudice, and worst of all have diverted discussion from the major social issue of child poverty."

Tully said he would not have run the cartoons and he told Breakfast it's disingenuous to defend publishing them by saying "I'm an editor, not a censor".

Defending freedom of speech is a cop-out, he said. "Every editor at some point is a censor."

Cartoonists have always provoked and incited people, said Tully, but he believes in this particular case it's "a pretty shallow cartoon" and "not particularly funny".

He suggests Nisbet could reflect on whether that kind of portrayal is helpful and whether it constitutes satire or is simply a reinforcement of prejudice.

"Satire has to be intelligent and go beyond a very fundamental idea that some people are not very good at bringing up kids."

Tully hopes the whole issue will "die down in about an hour" because it is diverting discussion from the real issue of child poverty.