SPJ Supports First Amendment Rights of Cartoonist Michael Ramirez
Robert Leger, SPJ President, 417-836-1113 or email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Society of Professional Journalists today saluted Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., for chastising the Secret Service over its interest in Los Angeles Times editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez.
The Pulitzer Prize- and Sigma Delta Chi Award-winning Ramirez drew a cartoon that was a satirical takeoff of the 1968 photo of a South Vietnamese general executing a Viet Cong officer at point-blank range. Ramirez labeled the man with the gun as “Politics,” aiming a gun at Bush with the backdrop labeled as Iraq. On Monday, a Secret Service agent showed up at the Times asking to talk to Ramirez. His reason? The clearly pro-Bush cartoon “might be construed as a threat against the president.”
The agent was turned away by a Times attorney. Cox, who chairs the House of Representatives committee with oversight of the Secret Service, objected to the service’s actions. He called it an attempt at intimidation that reflects “profoundly bad judgment.”
SPJ agrees. In a letter from President Robert Leger, the Society thanked Cox for his stance and his call on the Secret Service to apologize to Ramirez. SPJ also wondered how this case might have turned out if Ramirez had been an ordinary citizen without a newspaper’s attorney available to him. No citizen should be subjected to a visit from the Secret Service for exercising basic American rights, Leger said in the letter.
The full text of the letter follows.
The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.