Case Number: 918

Council Meeting: MARCH 2003

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Dominion Post

Ruling Categories: Taste Lack of

A Tom Scott cartoon published in The Dominion Post was the subject of a complaint by N Brailsford.

The unsigned cartoon in the Dominion Post in December 2002 depicted Saddam Hussein about to be anally searched by a member of the UN Weapons Inspection team. Mrs Brailsford, a long time subscriber of the former Dominion, said that she had never seen such a disgusting cartoon and wanted to know why it ever had been published.

The editor of The Dominion Post apologised to Mrs Brailsford saying that it had not been the paper’s intention, nor that of Tom Scott (the cartoonist), to offend. He explained that cartoons are very often a tough graphic commentary on matters of public interest. The possibility of war with Iraq and the willingness of the UN Inspectors to go to great lengths to find weapons of mass destruction was portrayed vividly in the cartoon.

Cartoons are not always perceived by readers to be humorous, some in fact are very satirical or scathing, but ultimately the content is a matter for the editor’s discretion. In this instance the topic is daily headline news. Tom Scott’s portrayal of the escalating crisis follows a well-established newspaper tradition of dramatically illustrating the current news.

The Press Council does not uphold the complaint. Previous decisions of the Council have supported the view that newspapers have a wide discretion in the use of cartoons as vehicles for social and political comment.

Ms S Carty took no part in the consideration of this complaint.