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Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonists condemn censorship of 'South Park'

By Michael Cavna
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 29, 2010; C05

Seventeen Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonists, including "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau and 2010 winner Mark Fiore, have signed a petition to condemn "threats" against Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of the Comedy Central show "South Park," by a group calling itself Revolution Muslim.

The group produced the site RevolutionMuslim.com -- on which images of the fatally stabbed filmmaker Theo van Gogh (a noted critic of Islam) appeared with the caption: "Have Matt Stone And Trey Parker Forgotten This?"

Comedy Central censored an episode of "South Park" last week that was to depict Muhammad. Depictions of the religious leader are considered blasphemous by some Muslims. Stone and Parker said Comedy Central also censored the show's speech about fear and intimidation.

The 17 Pulitzer cartoonists who signed the letter are: Nick Anderson, Tony Auth, Clay Bennett, Steve Benson, Matt Davies, Fiore, Jack Higgins, David Horsey, Jim Morin, Mike Peters, Joel Pett, Michael Ramirez, Ben Sargent, Paul Szep, Ann Telnaes, Trudeau and Signe Wilkinson.

Their letter goes on to say that "freedom of expression is a universal right" and "we reject any group that seeks to silence people by violence or intimidation." The letter cites the United States' "proud tradition of political satire" and affirms belief in the right "to speak or draw freely without censorship."

Wilkinson, political cartoonist at the Philadelphia Daily News, said: "I feel more strongly than the statement -- and am particularly appalled by Comedy Central's lack of spine."

Last week, Seattle artist Molly Norris circulated a cartoon to show her support for the "South Park" creators -- she even "dedicated" the cartoon to Parker and Stone -- but then retreated from the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" campaign that her cartoon spawned. "I made a cartoon that went viral, but [this campaign] isn't really my thing," she said.

According to Washington Post Writers Group columnist Kathleen Parker, the Revolution Muslim postings about "South Park" were by "one Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee (a.k.a. Zachary Chesser of Virginia)." Parker wrote this week that Norris, who depicted herself as a "coward" in a new cartoon, "should be relieved of further duty or responsibility." In other words: Her Muhammad cartoon has done enough to spark a larger dialogue.

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