Nikahang Kowsar, an Iranian
cartoonist, radio producer, news-wire editor, blogger and photographer, recently
attended a conference hosted by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ),
which brought together journalists to discuss social, economic, and political
issues in Iran.
The goal of the conference, titled "Iran 360˚: Exploring Politics, Economics and Society in a Global Hot Spot," was to "get past some of the myths and two-dimensional perceptions of Iran," said Joyce Barnathan, the President of ICFJ, during her opening remarks at the conference.To that end, forty-three American journalists and reporters from various news agencies and newspapers as well Iranians, Iran experts and others attended the program, held April 1 to 2 outside of Washington, D.C.
Kowsar's politically flavored
presentation, which had the audience both laughing and crying, provided a
glimpse into the unique life experience of this accomplished cartoonist.
Kowsar, who began his press career in 1991, immigrated to
Just months after arriving in
Now, he is known for
portraying politics through caricatures and cartoons. He has been featured in
the New York Times,
Newsweek magazine, the
Washington Post and many other major
Kowsar has won many awards including the 2001 international "Courage for Editorial Cartooning" from the Cartoonists Rights Network. He also received the second prize in
He is a regular contributor to Roozonline and works with the Dutch-based radio station "Radio Zamaneh."
IJNet recently had a chance to speak to this accomplished, lively cartoonist.
IJNet: How did you begin your career as a cartoonist?
I was a geology student at the
IJNet: Who has inspired you in your life?
NK: I think both my parents. My mom was a painter, and I didn't like her style! So I tried to take a different path. My dad is a soil scientist, and somehow relates to geology and hydrogeology. I attended a drawing course while getting my BS, and then moved on to cartooning. In a way, they both motivated me.
IJNet: What do you do at Radio Zamaneh and tell us how this radio station started?
NK: I'm a producer and reporter for Radio Zamaneh. I produce my own show, Kalaghestoon. I play five characters; three of them are crows. I also impersonate a number of politicians.
In June 2006, Mehdi Jami, a former BBC producer, asked me to join this new Radio that is actually a "Bloggers' Radio." I've been a member of the team since July 2006. Radio Zamaneh is funded by the Dutch government.
IJNet: Your cartoons are both political and satirical. Do you also do cartoons other than those that have a political connotation?
NK: Actually most of my cartoons are political these days. I used to do some gag, but these days, my mind is so focused on Iranian politics that I try to avoid any other type of cartooning. I also used to draw caricatures, and still do from time to time.
IJNet: You told a story about Daniel Pearl at the conference; you became tearful, and you made me and others cry. What was that story about?
It's sad to talk about Danny. I met Daniel Pearl for the first time in February
2000, just after getting out of prison because of a cartoon I had drawn two
weeks before that day. Two years later, after Danny was abducted, a fixer in
I met Danny several times, but never thought of the coincidence. When the fixer told me the story, it was too late to get Danny's side of the story. I'm not even sure if Danny ever heard about it. Nobody can give me a straight answer. This has been haunting me since his tragic death.
IJNet: How do you view
the Iranian TV and radio stations in the
NK: VOA (Persian) and Radio Farda [Radio Free Europe-Persian] have an agenda, and are well funded to gradually change the attitude of the Iranian audience against the Islamic Republic. I don't call this journalism. It's propaganda. Other channels are just good for entertaining the public. That's all. They are wasting a lot of time, money and energy.
IJNet: What are some
of the weaknesses of journalism in
Many Iranian journalists are actually party members and cannot remain
independent. Many act as public relations personalities rather than reporters.
Remaining independent is really difficult and sometimes harmful. In
To view some of Nikahang's cartoons visit the following links:
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