Protecting ‘Sacred Cows’: A Comparative Study of the Factors Influencing Political Cartoonists

© Media Watch | 12 (2) 208-226, 2021
ISSN 0976-0911 | E-ISSN 2249-8818


Protecting ‘Sacred Cows’: A Comparative Study of the Factors Influencing Political Cartoonists


Ayesha Ashfaq1 & Joseph Russomanno2
1University of the Punjab, Pakistan 
2Arizona State University, USA



Political cartooning is an influential medium that can be a significant indicator of the democratic health of a country. However, understanding the factors influencing and restraining political cartoonists has been neglected within political communication scholarship across the world for decades. Cartoonists globally cherish the level of freedom possessed by their American counterparts. Cartoonists in Pakistan are among those. Based on this assumption, this article investigates the factors that influence political cartoonists, including any filters through which their drawings pass before publication. Therefore, in-depth interviews of political cartoonists from Pakistan and the United States have been conducted under the umbrella of a model suggested by Gamson and Modgiliani (1989). This study compares cartooning in the ostensibly free environment in the United States and the visibly restricted atmosphere in Pakistan to see how the dynamics of free speech in political cartooning are changing. While the study reveals some largely predictable differences between Pakistan and the United States, there are some remarkable similarities.


Keywords: Political cartoonists, freedom, pressures, United States, Pakistan, control




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Ayesha Ashfaq is the Chairperson of Department of Development Communication and an Associate Professor in School of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab, Pakistan. Her research interests are political communication, cartoons journalism, development communication, gender and feminism and qualitative research. 

Joseph Russomanno is Professor at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University, USA. His research interests are media laws, freedom of expression, the First Amendment issues, and broadcast journalism. 


Correspondence to: Ayesha Ashfaq, School of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab, New Campus, Lahore, Pakistan-548000.