Free Rein by Mohammad Saba’aneh July 13 2010 (Cartoon Movement/World Press Freedom Day Collection)
The strangest thing happened to me last night. I was reviewing my earlier posts about Mohammad Saba’aneh because his incarceration has become somewhat of an obsession to me. I can’t help it. I worry about him all the time: googling to see if there’s any new news, anything, any word, but there isn’t.
He’s locked away, stolen by Israel. Suffering no doubt.
Since I began searching, I’ve intercepted many many of his cartoons on the teeth grinding, mindwrenching Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) hate site. If there’s one conclusion I’ve come to it’s that PMW is as obsessed with Saba’aneh’s artwork as I am, only—in another way. A thwarted gruesome obsession is what they’ve got.
But back to my story. Mulling over my earlier reports again, opening every single link, and heading over to his archives at the cartoon movement, I opened the Movement’s homepage … and lo and behold found out that it was World Press Freedom Day yesterday and they are honoring it with a collection. So I started flipping thru the cartoons with thoughts of 30-year-old Mohammad Saba’aneh– his talent, his youth, what is he thinking right now? Are they torturing or interrogating him? How many young people like him have I never even heard of? Why has his art clutched my heart? How many old men languishing in Israeli prisons were once young promising talents like Saba’aneh, and what remains of their lost art we will never see?
I thought of Saba’aneh’s globes of freedom, and hoped he’s seeing that light right now. I prayed he was seeing it thru all the oppression, through all the missings of his family and friends and pens and pencils and colors and talent and art.
Then scrolling through the World Press Freedom Day Collection an image jumped right out at me, right off the page. “Who is this?” I thought. “Another pure talent.”
And I looked closer and checked the name, and burst into tears. It was a piece by Mohammad Saba’aneh. Someone had the wisdom to put his work in the cartoon movement’s display.
And while I don’t expect anyone here to share my obsession, if there’s just one person like me googling for news of Mohammad Saba’aneh, something, anything, they will now find my story and know, they’re not alone. And he’s not alone.
The political cartoon is one of the best ways by which one can measure the level of press freedom in a country. A cartoonist cannot work when there is no freedom of speech and opinion. The collection is the largest we currently have, featuring almost 40 perspectives on the subject of press freedom from all over the world.
P.S. And there’s this news. In an international index of press freedom, journalists in Israel (112th, -20) enjoy real freedom of expression despite the existence of military censorship; but the country fell 20 places in the index because of the Israeli military’s targeting of journalists in Palestine.