The editor of South Australian newspaper The Advertiser has issued a public apology following the uproar from last Thursday’s controversial ‘Another Greek Tragedy’ cartoon sketched by editorial cartoonist Jos Valdman, referencing the recent tragic bushfires in Attica that cost the lives of 91 people.
“A cartoon about the Greek fire tragedy appeared in yesterday’s Advertiser and unfortunately upset many of the people who saw it. The cartoon was meant to be a poignant tribute to the Greek people, both the tragedy they are now facing and their undeniable resilience. But many of you told us you found the cartoon to be offensive, insensitive and in bad taste. It was never our intention to add to the hurt or distress the Greek community has been suffering as a result of the fires,” wrote Matt Deighton.
“But we accept that we did and, for this, we unreservedly apologise.”
The apology was published on all of The Advertiser‘s social media platforms, as well as in Saturday’s print edition.
The controversial cartoon portrayed a Grecian couple embracing in distress with tears streaming down their faces which were then collected in an amphorae by a Grecian man and passed on by three Ancient Greeks who are in the process of extinguishing a fire.
Former Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis is among the members of the community who have welcomed the apology – claiming it “showed leadership” – and suggesting it is time to accept it, and consider the matter closed.
“The editor has apologised … He is a committed friend of our Greek community, his wife is Greek, his children have Greek heritage, he knows we are hurting, he’s hurting and the paper is helping promote fundraising efforts for the relief work on Greece,” he said.
However many members of the public haven’t been as forgiving, continuing to express their concerns about the image and its creator via social media, while others have written to express their discontent directly to the newspaper or lodged formal complaints to the Australian Press Council.
“There needs to be a better formal apology, one that does not try to make excuses,” said Emanuel Skorpos, president of the 95-year-old Greek community in Port Pirie.
“The apology should be made and addressed firstly to the victims and their families, then to the people of Greece for mocking them, and lastly to the Greek communities Australia-wide who have taken offence to Valdman’ s lack of compassion and warped sense of humour.
“Our families chose South Australia to live, work, raise families, practice our faith and our culture. We are a successful migration and assimilation story in this state’s history, one that should be embraced and not mocked and ridiculed, particularly, during a time when people are suffering and families have lost their children, their homes and their businesses. It wasn’t that long ago here in SA when we experienced the same tragic situation firstly, in the southern Flinders Ranges, then right on Adelaide’s door step, the Pinery Fires. Unlike some, we still have vivid memories of those hard times,” said Mr Skorpos.
“Lastly, if Mr Deighton truly has a direct connection to our community and culture, then he should have known better to respect and not upset so many Greek communities not just in SA, but globally. Friends and colleagues of ours in Athens are also disgusted by the image, therefore, we need to see a much better apology presented that shows compassion, respect and remorse for what we feel is unacceptable behaviour.”