- By RNZ

The Otago Daily Times is reviewing Garrick Tremain's future with the publication and will not publish any of his cartoons until the review is complete.

The cartoonist is under fire after his most recent work was labelled racist and insensitive for making light of Samoa's measles crisis.

About 40 people gathered outside of the Otago Daily Times' office this afternoon to protest the cartoon and Mr Tremain's ongoing employment by the newspaper.

Advertisement

Editor Barry Stewart addressed the protesters a short time ago, telling them Mr Tremain will not feature in the pages of the paper while a review is underway.

He apologised for hurt caused to the Samoan community and took responsibility for the cartoon being published.

A protest against cartoonist Garrick Tremain outside the Otago Daily Times' Dunedin offices. Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown
A protest against cartoonist Garrick Tremain outside the Otago Daily Times' Dunedin offices. Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown
ODT editor Barry Stewart (left) prepares to talk to protesters. Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown
ODT editor Barry Stewart (left) prepares to talk to protesters. Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

Mr Stewart said the review into Mr Tremain's future at the paper will be quick.

Sixty people have died from the disease - most of them young children - and more than 3800 people have caught the illness.

The cartoon by Mr Tremain shows a person outside a travel agent remarking that the least popular spots right now are the ones people are picking up in Samoa.

Sina Brown-Davis - whose whakapapa includes the Scanlan aigi of Faleula in Samoa - has friends on the island whose babies have died in the measles outbreak.

She said the cartoon was racist, made a mockery of the dead and has horrified the Samoan community.

"I'm holding back the tears because this is really emotional, this has hurt a lot of people who are hurting and in trauma anyway.

Advertisement

"The death toll in Samoa keeps on rising, [but] instead of giving support to a country that is close to us [the paper] is cutting people down ... it's reprehensible."

Lisa Taouma from Pacific media organisation Coconet TV said their audience was appalled by the racism.

"What people have been complaining about all day long on our channel, the Coconet TV, is how it just lumped everything into 'brown people problem that become fodder for white people entertainment'."

Mr Stewart has apologised for running the cartoon, but said while it was insensitive it was not racist.

The ODT's apology. Photo / ODT
The ODT's apology. Photo / ODT

Ms Taouma said the apology has been hugely disappointing to the Pacific community.

"The inadequacy of a one-line throwaway apology around that the content was 'insensitive', you know - what about 'morally wrong'? People have found that completely completely inadequate."

AUT journalism lecturer Richard Pamatatau said the paper has a history of publishing racist cartoons by Mr Tremain.

"The cartoons are dangerous. They're not fulfilling what a cartoon is meant to be, which is to shift your ideas on something or challenge a political idea, they're nasty, vicious, racist cartoon.

He said the paper needs to dump Mr Tremain.

"It's time for him to take his pen and keep them at home in his little office and not bother anybody with his really really .... stupid offensive cartoons."

Mr Tremain told RNZ's First Up that timing of the cartoon was insensitive but it was just a limp joke.

"Being able to wind the clock back I wouldn't have done it, but I can't wind the clock back.

"I don't think it's the end of the world, it's not meant to give offence, if it has given offence - I'm sorry to those it's given offence to."

On his website today Mr Tremain acknowledged the lack of judgement on his part and apologised to those he offended.

Ms Brown-Davis is organising a protest at midday today outside the Otago Daily Time's office, and has some demands for the paper.

"I would like the Otago Daily Times to make a $50,000 donation to the Red Cross in Samoa .... and I would like to see the editorial team at the Otago Daily Times do anti-racism training."