Cartoonist Quits France’s Le Monde in Free Speech Row

Copies of the French newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro at a newsstand in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris, on Jan. 7, 2021.(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

PARIS (AFP) — A leading French cartoonist on Wednesday said he would no longer work for Le Monde after the newspaper apologized for a cartoon he drew that tackled a sex-abuse scandal.

France’s intellectual elite was rocked this month by a claim that political commentator Olivier Duhamel sexually abused his stepson, prompting social media users to speak out under the hashtag #MeTooInceste.

In a cartoon published in Le Monde’s newsletter on Tuesday, Xavier Gorce had reflected on the controversy with a drawing of two penguins.

The smaller penguin asks the other: “If I was abused by the adopted half-brother of the partner of my transgender father who has now become my mother, is that incest?” 

In an apology to readers, Le Monde’s editor-in-chief Caroline Monnot said the cartoon should not have been published.

“This drawing can indeed be read as relativizing the seriousness of acts of incest, using inappropriate terms towards victims and transgender people,” she said.

Some social media users had also accused Gorce of transphobia and mocking the victims of sex abuse.

But he hit back, writing on Twitter that he had decided to “immediately stop working with Le Monde.”

“It is a personal, unilateral and definitive decision. Freedom cannot be negotiated. My drawings will continue.”

He also posted a final cartoon for Le Monde which again showed two penguins — this time both adults — with one asking: “Do you have your health passport for a sense of humor?”

Duhamel is under criminal investigation after his stepdaughter Camille Kouchner published the allegations that he abused her twin brother when they were 14 years old.

Freedom of speech and its limits have been burning issues since Islamist gunmen massacred staff at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in 2015 after it had published cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.

A spate of attacks carried out by radical Islamists last year prompted President Emmanuel Macron to vow that France would never renounce its right to caricature.

© Agence France-Presse

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