OUTA's axing of Jerm cowardly and disgraceful - IRR

Frans Cronje says Institute will be partnering with Jeremy Nell in 2019 to produce series of cartoons

IRR to partner with JERM on 2019 cartoons

The IRR will partner with cartoonist Jeremy Nell, commonly known as JERM, in 2019 to produce a series of cartoons countering threats to South Africa’s future as a free, open, and prosperous society.

IRR CEO Frans Cronje said: ‘Nell is one of the bravest public commentators in the country. He is provocative and pushes boundaries, which is exactly what a cartoonist is supposed to do. While we do not agree with all his published work, we respect his determination to challenge society and to invite critical responses. The work he produces for us will be commissioned by the IRR and will appear across a range of IRR reports and public commentary.’

Cronje added: ‘We are aware that OUTA this week fired Jeremy Nell in response to a media report that his commentary was racist. We have looked at the evidence, and spoken to Nel, and think his axing was a cowardly and disgraceful act by an organisation that has done much over recent years to stand up against threats, intimidation, and abuses of power.

‘It is one thing to stand up against the big issues of corruption and state capture but it is quite another to stand up for an individual voice who has, on the evidence at hand, been unfairly maligned and silenced. This is very much the test for freedom of speech and tolerance. By all means challenge intellectually and seek to demolish in public ideas and arguments you do not agree with. But a very dangerous point is reached when, short of incitement to violence, prominent voices seek to silence those they disagree with.

‘In a week that has seen physical threats of violence directed against journalists, it is more important than ever to take an unambiguous stand in favour of the free articulation of ideas – including ideas one does not always agree with.’

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Statement issued by the IRR, 6 December 2018