|Cartoon by Niels Bo Bojesen
In a statement released on January 27, 2020, the Chinese embassy in Denmark demands an apology from the daily Jyllands-posten, one of the country's main newspapers.
The press release:
The recent outbreak of novel coronavirus in Wuhan has claimed 81 precious lives in China. While the Chinese government and people are doing everything to fight this rare public health emergency, and the international community has shown us great sympathy and support, Jyllands-posten published a 'satire drawing' by Niels Bo Bojesen, which is an insult to China and hurts the feelings of the Chinese people.
Without any sympathy and empathy, it has crossed the bottom line of civilized society and the ethical boundary of free speech and offends human conscience. We express our strong indignation and demand that Jyllands-posten and Niels Bo Bojesen reproach themselves for their mistake and publicly apologize to the Chinese people.
- "'We have free speech': Danish PM avoids direct response to China over flag controversy" in The Local.
We had no intention of being offensive, but although we might empathise with the reactions to the drawing, it does not form the basis for our editing of the newspaper.
The corona virus cartoon featured in Jyllands-Posten has evidently agitated many people because the Chinese flag is used as an illustration.
Under no circumstances was it ever the intention to offend the Chinese people, nor to exploit the existing serious situation, in which the corona virus is costing human lives, for satire.
The cartoon describes the evolving issue that this disease is currently spreading from China to other countries in the world. By means of cartoon drawing and the inherent spatial limitation, the Chinese flag has been used to tell this story, in the same manner that the flags of other countries, such as those of Denmark and the United States, are often used in more or less caricatured contexts.
Jyllands-Posten celebrates the principle of freedom of expression and allowing room for divergent views. This may sometimes result in some individuals feeling offended, and although we might empathise with this, it does not form the basis for our editing of the newspaper. However, we would like to reiterate that it was in no way the intention for this cartoon to be offensive.
- Cartoon Movement, which published the cartoon on its website, responds to the controversy:
It has been a week full of controversies here at Cartoon Movement. We are used to them, as cartoons always tend to offend someone, and creating provoking images is a very effective way to make people think.
As editor of Cartoon Movement, I do not always agree with the visual choices of cartoonists. However, our policy is to provide a free and open platform for all the cartoonists who have been accepted in our community.
If an image is felt to be hateful or insulting, we’d rather have a frank and open discussion about it instead of censoring the image and thereby avoiding any discussion.
The cartoon by Danish cartoonist Niels Bo Bojesen, published in the Jyllands-Posten and also on our website stirred up quite a lot of international outrage.
Chinese people and government were not happy their flag was the object of satire. The Danish government, however, defended their tradition of freedom speech.
We also feel this cartoon is perfectly acceptable under freedom of speech. Flags are used frequently by editorial cartoonists because they are a very recognizable visual element.
This is also illustrated by the fact that Niels was certainly not the only cartoonist to employ the Chinese flag as a central element in doing a cartoon about the Coronavirus (see here, here and here).
And if cartoonists weren’t allowed to mock flags anymore, there’d be a lot less cartoons. We even have a cartoon collection dedicated to flags.
Tjeerd Royaards, Editor-in-Chief