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Jonathan Shapiro, who works under the name Zapiro, seen here in Cape Town in 2010, predicts the fears massacre leads to self-censorship.

Schalk van Zuydam/Associated Press

Zapiro, an award-winning South African cartoonist, once famously depicted Jacob Zuma, then deputy president, with a condom on his head. Predictably, he believes satirists should have the right to picture the high and mighty with similar nerve the world over.

The Charlie Hebdo massacre, an attack on cartoonists and satirists like himself, has left him feeling despondent. "I am so upset and so devastated," he said in a phone interview from Johannesburg. "I feel for them. I feel for their families."

Zapiro (real name: Jonathan Shapiro) himself came under fire for a drawing of the Prophet Mohammed that ran in The Mail and Guardian in 2010. He says he knows what it is like to live under threat. But he is astonished that Charlie Hebdo, a weekly that has often mocked Islam, would be targeted in such a manner.

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"I cannot believe that whatever fringe group this is has actually gone to the extent that they have," he remarked. "It's an utter outrage. It's a huge attack on freedom of expression, a huge attack on secular society, on secular democracy everywhere."

It is also a blow for what he considers a defining characteristic that he admires: "French irreverence."

Even though Charlie Hebdo is a small-circulation publication that has been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy for years, Zapiro predicts the attack will probably lead to self-censorship all over the world.

"It will certainly have a chilling effect on satirists and media everywhere," he fears. "I just hope that there's enough solidarity between us all, between all forms of media, that we make that chilling effect as small as possible."

Zapiro, who received the Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award from the Cartoonists Rights Network in 2007 would like to believe that satirists, understanding that there is safety in numbers, will continue to mock the political and religious powers that be.

Cartoons have become a powerful form of communication because of their universal appeal. "There's an international understanding of the conventions of cartoon drawing," he notes. "It's become a language that is internationally intelligible."

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