Cartoonist’s work on hold as paper considers new policy

The Otago Daily Times will not print work by cartoonist Garrick Tremain while it works through a review process, following the newspaper running a cartoon making light of the Samoan measles epidemic.

This comes as more than 40 people gathered outside the newspaper’s Dunedin building yesterday calling for Tremain to be fired following the publication of the cartoon on Tuesday.

It also drew considerable criticism on social media.

Protest leader Sina Brown-Davis said yesterday she was filled with ‘‘outrage and disgust’’ after seeing the cartoon.

‘‘There is no good timing to make light of the deaths of 60 babies and children.

Protesters opposed to the publication of a Garrick Tremain cartoon gather outside the Otago Daily...
Protesters opposed to the publication of a Garrick Tremain cartoon gather outside the Otago Daily Times yesterday. Photo: Staff photographer
‘‘This cartoonist has a long history of racist tropes which denigrate not only Samoan people, but Maori people as well. He’s made a career of it.’’

The initial apology from the Otago Daily Times was ‘‘half-baked’’, she said.

Dunedin city councillor Marie Laufiso said she thought the cartoon was ‘‘very, very’’ insensitive.

‘‘And this is not the first time that Garrick Tremain has had complaints about his insensitivity.

‘‘I would just make the observation that cartoons are supposed to challenge the powerful, not make fun of the powerless.’’

She contacted the Human Rights Commission, which invited her to lay a complaint, she said.

Editor Barry Stewart addressed protesters, saying he wanted to ‘‘apologise unreservedly for the upset and hurt’’ it caused.

He recognised the initial apology did not go far enough and said the organisation was reviewing its selection process.

Its senior editorial and management team made the decision not to run cartoons by Tremain while it worked ‘‘through a review process’’, he said.

‘‘The content of the cartoon was insensitive, and I apologise without reservation for publishing it.’’

He wanted to apologise directly to the Samoan community, who were ‘‘deeply affected by and dealing with this dreadful human tragedy’’.

‘‘I am fully aware these words do not go far enough to heal the hurt that we have caused, but I hope they go some way to showing how sorry we are.’’

Tremain posted an apology on his website yesterday.

‘‘The cartoon should not have been put forward for publication and I acknowledge the lack of judgement on my part.’’

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