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ODT cartoon sparks calls for anti-racism training

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The Otago Daily Times has been told it needs to do anti-racism training after it was forced to apologise for a cartoon joking about the Samoa measles outbreak.ODT cartoon sparks calls for anti-racism training for the paper

Hamish Cardwell, Journalist

The Otago Daily Times has been told it needs to do anti-racism training after it was forced to apologise for a cartoon joking about the Samoa measles outbreak.

a screenshot of the text of the ODT apology

Photo: odt.co.nz

The cartoon sparked an immediate backlash online – being labelled racist, heartless and insensitive. There’s a protest planned outside the paper’s office today.

Fifty-five people have died from the disease – most of them young children – and more than 3800 people have caught the illness.

The cartoon by Garrick Tremain shows a person outside a travel agent remarking that the least popular spots right now are the ones people are picking up in Samoa.

Sina Brown-Davis – whose whakapapa includes the Scanlan aigi of Faleula in Samoa – has friends on the island whose babies have died in the measles outbreak.

She said the cartoon was racist, made a mockery of the dead and has horrified the Samoan community.

“I’m holding back the tears because this is really emotional, this has hurt a lot of people who are hurting and in trauma anyway.

“The death toll in Samoa keeps on rising, [but] instead of giving support to a country that is close to us [the paper] is cutting people down … it’s reprehensible.”

Lisa Taouma from Pacific media organisation Coconet TV said their audience was appalled by the racism.

“What people have been complaining about all day long on our channel, the Coconet TV, is how it just lumped everything into ‘brown people problem that become fodder for white people entertainment’.”

The paper’s editor Barry Stewart has apologised for running the cartoon, but said while it was insensitive it was not racist.

Ms Taouma said the apology has been hugely disappointing to the Pacific community.

“The inadequacy of a one-line throwaway apology around that the content was ‘insensitive’, you know – what about ‘morally wrong’? People have found that completely completely inadequate.”

AUT journalism lecturer Richard Pamatatau said the paper has a history of publishing racist cartoons by Mr Tremain.

“The cartoons are dangerous. They’re not fulfilling what a cartoon is meant to be, which is to shift your ideas on something or challenge a political idea, they’re nasty, vicious, racist cartoon.

He said the paper needs to dump Mr Tremain.

“It’s time for him to take his pen and keep them at home in his little office and not bother anybody with his really really …. stupid offensive cartoons.”

Cartoonist Garrick Tremain said timing of the cartoon was insensitive but it was just a limp joke.

Listen to Garrick Tremain on First Up this morning duration 5:05
from First Up

Click a link to play audio (or right-click to download) in either
MP3 format or in OGG format.

“Being able to wind the clock back I wouldn’t have done it, but I can’t wind the clock back.

“I don’t think it’s the end of the world, it’s not meant to give offence, if it has given offence – I’m sorry to those it’s given offence to.”

Ms Brown-Davis is organising a protest at midday today outside the Otago Daily Time’s office, and has some demands for the paper.

“I would like the Otago Daily Times to make a $50,000 donation to the Red Cross in Samoa …. and I would like to see the editorial team at the Otago Daily Times do anti-racism training.”

Mr Stewart said the paper will run an editorial in today’s edition with an apology and it will review its cartoon selection process.

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