We are very pleased to welcome another cartoonist from Cuba. Yoemnis Batista Del Toro (artist name DelToro) is an artist from Havana; his vibrant and colorful work has a poetic quality.
As our newsroom is filled to the brim with cartoons about Trump winning the US election, other media around the world have published cartoon slideshows. CNN has also published a slideshow. Unlike the majority of other media, CNN asked a number of cartoonists to send in a cartoon right after the final result of the election, and actually pays them for their contribution. Cartoon Movement’s editor-in-chief and cartoonist Tjeerd Royaards made the homepage of CNN with his perspective on Trump winning the US elections.
Questions of copyright is a monthly feature in which we share some of our questions and concerns about how and where cartoons from Cartoon Movement are used without our permission.
A cartoon by Miguel Villalba Sanchez (pen name Elchicotriste), responding to the lack of media attention for Haiti after the devastation of hurricane Matthew, went viral. Elchicotriste’s haunting image again proves how the Internet offers cartoonists the potential to reach a massive audience with every cartoon they do. Which is of course wonderful, although many media outlets that shared the cartoon did forget to ask for his permission. But instead of listing the sheer endless list of media websites with this particular form of selective amnesia, we’ve decided to highlight the two media outlets that did contact Miguel.
Miguel has informed us that Al Jazeera and Europa Press both contacted him before publishing the cartoon. Europa Press even linked to Cartoon Movement (the original platform of publication), one of the very few that did. Well done!
On a more negative note, another platform we’d like to highlight this month is Sada El Balad, a news website from Egypt with almost 2,5 million fans on Facebook. The English version of the website has a page that’s devoted to cartoons, publishing cartoons from various sources including Cartoon Movement. We’ve contacted them to inform them of our copyright policy, but have yet to receive a reply. In the meantime, they continue to provide an additional (if unasked for) outlet for our cartoons.
We refer to this unauthorized use of cartoons by media outlets as the culture of free content on the Internet. Because people on social media freely share content, many professional journalists and editors feel they can do the same. In our view, this is one of the biggest threats to our profession. If you're in Australia (near Sydney), and you're interested in the future of editorial cartooning, we recommend you attend 'Surviving in a Digital World, a panel discussion on November 12 that is part of the annual conference of the Australian Cartoonists' Assiciation.
Ndarama Assoumani is an editorial cartoonist in Rwanda. Like many other governments around the world, the president and ruling party in Rwanda do not like to be criticized. We talk to Ndarama about his work and the dangers he encounters.
What sort of threats do you face as an editorial cartoonist in Rwanda?
To answer this, we need to look at the history of Rwanda before the genocide against the Tutsis in 1994. The most popular newspaper at that time, Kangura, used satire cartoons to stereotype the (Tutsi) enemies, many of them politicians. Reports and testimonies after the genocide mentioned the cartoons as propaganda tools used to serve the perpetrators of the genocide. I'm apart from the ideology of genocide; I draw on justice and peace. It is a shame that cartoons in Rwanda are still seen in the light of the genocide. Can you imagine if someone asked me "Do you want to restore Kangura?" That would mean creating divisions between people again.
I have received several anonymous calls demanding that I stop drawing or that I remove certain cartoons, especially those that cover security, government, or other topics related to the president. I am afraid of course that something could happen to me.
Are there taboos (subjects you cannot draw about) in Rwanda? And is there outright censorship on some topics?
To write and talk about sex in public was forbidden but now television and radio cover this topic. Of course all topics related to the president are taboo. It is forbidden to write articles or use photos and documents without authorization from the Office of the President. This is an unofficial law, not documented but known by all. This restriction is applicable even to topics related to the security agencies, the police and the army.
What are your favorite subjects to draw about? And do these include ‘dangerous’ topics?
I like the subjects of human rights, security and corruption, all of which are dangerous to some extent. Rwanda is placed quited high in various rankings comparing African countries. This means that relatively safe place, with little corruption. It is not true! Some reports are pure falsehood. I think as an editorial cartoonist it is my job to never give up, even if there are very dangerous topics that need to be addressed.
How is the economic situation in Rwanda; is it possible to make a living as a cartoonist?
There are two newspapers that pay cartoonists; among them is the one that I work for as a cartoonist. I earn a minimum of 200 euros and a maximum of 400 euros per month. My income is laughable; being a cartoonist is not a desirable job here. Cartoon Movement helps me to continue my work, giving me the support of an international community of cartoonists.
Are you positive about the future of editorial cartooning in Rwanda?
Everything is possible; the development must begin with basic skills. There is no initiative in Rwanda to help cartoonists in their skills and activities. Learning fine arts does not mean that you necessarily become an editorial cartoonist, but the government should understand the importance of freedom of expression. At present, many cartoonists shy away from politics. They become illustrators instead, choosing to draw subjects related to leisure and entertainment.
Vanessa Valadez is a Chicago-based cartoonist and illustrator. Her artwork is inspired by children’s books, video games, cartoons, comics, and real life. Her work has appeared in Fusion, South Side Weekly, The Columbia Chronicle, The Chicago Monitor, and Linework to name a few. Check out more of her work on vanessavaladez.com.
Feras Haggag is cartoonist originally from Egypt. He has been working as a cartoonist, photographer and designer since 2006. His work has appeared in many newspapers and magazines in and outside of Egypt and has also been featured on news channels like Al Jazeera.
If you’re reading this blog, we probably do not need to tell you that cartoons are powerful. We’re proud of the cartoons we publish every day, and it’s great to see some of them really have an impact.
Recently, two of the cartoons we have published went truly viral: Allepo(nica) by Vasco Gargalo and Nobody is Haiti by Elchicotriste. Both have been published widely, being featured by Al Jazeera, Human Rights Watch and the Guardian (to name just a few). Both cartoons have reached an audience of millions.