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Bill Leak cartoon cleared of breaching Press Council standards

Controversial cartoonist Bill Leak has escaped censure for a cartoon he penned last December depicting a group of Indians trying to eat solar panels titled “Aid a La Mode”.

The cartoon, which triggered complaints to the Australian Press Council, depicted five gaunt individuals wearing traditional Indian attire, eating solar panels from a box bearing United Nations logos with one saying “It’s no good, you cant eat them” and another responding “Hang on, let me try one with a bit of mango chutney”.

In its ruling on the cartoon the APC decided it did not breach its standards of practice, saying it was an “exaggeration and absurdity”.

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In its ruling it stated: “The Council considered that the cartoon is an example of drawing on exaggeration and absurdity to make its point.

“While some readers may have found the cartoon offensive, the Council did not consider that the publication failed to take reasonable steps to avoid causing substantial offence, distress or prejudice. Accordingly, the Council concludes that its Standards of Practice were not breached.”

The illustration- which was published last year on December 14 in News Corp’s national broadsheet The Australian- attracted backlash with some labelling it as racist.

Viewers accused the cartoonist of trading in dated stereotypes, however, the publication stood by the illustration explaining the intention of the cartoon, to ridicule climate change activists rather than Indians.

The newspaper drew attention to when it was published, soon after the UN Climate Conference Paris 2015, suggesting it had been a consistent theme, with author Bjorn Lomborg highlighting this in his post on the Dharnai solar experiment in India.

Leak is currently under investigation from the Australian Human Rights Commission after publishing an illustration depicting Aboriginals as poor parents.

The APC declined to rule on that image even though it received over 700 complaints, saying a series of opinion pieces run by the paper had remedied the situation.

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