Editorial: the (unstoppable?) demise of political cartoon awards

Medal__gatis_slukaCartoon by Gatis Sluka

A sad announcement from the World Press Cartoon this week, as their main funder has pulled out, making the 2023 edition of the award highly uncertain. This is the second time in recent history that the WPC has had to scurry to find new funding to continue its operations.


In 2021, I wrote an editorial about why awards for editorial cartoons matter. But in these time we live in, it seems not many other people see the need to celebrate the value of political satire. Earlier this year, the Pulitzer did away the 'Editorial Cartoon' category, renaming it 'Illustrated Reporting and Commentary'. The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists complained, but I am not sure they ever received a response, nor do I believe the Pulitzer Board will reverse its decision any time soon. The UN Political Cartoon Award died in its sleep a few years ago. One glimmer of light is the launch of European Cartoon Award by the European Press Prize a couple of years ago, but its future is far from secure (which I will get back to a little later on in this editorial).

Should we just accept that (international) awards for editorial cartoons are more and more rare? Or is there a way to increase this number, or at least safeguard the existing ones? Those who've read some of my editorials know I consider political cartooning to be a form of journalism. In my opinion, cartoonists should always be part of the journalistic association or union in their country. They should have a press card. First of all for their safety, but also for how their work is seen and valued. And maybe we should extend this to the way cartoons are awarded.

A simple Google search shows that there's a multitude of awards for journalism. I would argue that we need to integrate political cartoon awards with journalistic awards as much as possible. Although the Pulitzers present a problematic example right now (for the reason given above), the basic idea of having  or political cartoons be a category in a journalistic award is a sound one, for two reasons. One, it would give more value to the political cartoon, as a vital part of journalism. Second, it would present a far more secure situation in terms of funding and continuity. It's easier to defund an award just for cartoons than it is to defund a broad journalistic award.

If we, as cartoonists and organizers of cartooning awards, were to decide this is the right direction, there is still a long way to go. Journalists and journalistic award organizers often do not consider cartoonists to be true journalists. This is probably the reason the European Cartoon Award is separate from the general European Press Prizes. It also makes it a lot easier to discontinue or defund the ECA, as this will not impact the other EPP in any way. On the other side of the spectrum, there are also some cartoon awards have a reputation and legacy that they're not willing to give up by joining a more general journalistic award.

This is, for instance, the case for the Dutch cartoon award (the Inktspotprijs); the Dutch Association of Journalists would be more than happy to make this award part of their annual journalist awards, but the organizers of the Inktspotprijs and cartoonists fear this will mean losing the unique character of the Inktspotprijs. That might be true. But I still believe that, in the long run, editorial cartoonists will be better off joining journalists. Both in general and specifically when it comes to awards.

Tjeerd Royaards

Our November newsletter is out!

ادمان السهر على الموبايلCartoon by Rahma Cartoons

The penultimate newsletter for 2022 is out and it's packed! Check it out to see the best cartoons about Qatar (and our thoughts about some of the feedback we’ve received) and the COP27. We also have a report about the cartooning scene in Hungary and, of course, this month’s most popular cartoons.

Our editorial line on Qatar (and any other subject)

Javad Takjoo(x1221)Cartoon by Javad Takjoo

It's been another turbulent week at Cartoon Movement, at least if we look at our social media channels. As you'd expect, we've published a lot of cartoons about the World Cup in Qatar in recent days; we've also received a ton of comments on these cartoons, most of them negative. The basic argument of all these comments is the same: we, as a Western organization, are hypocritical for calling out Qatar on human rights when our past and present is full of human rights violations.

Although we do not have an editorial policy that's written in stone, this might be a good time to share some of our thoughts about the cartoons we publish, and what we do with the feedback we receive. For us, there are two major take-aways this week:

1.Whataboutism isn't a valid argument

We already witnessed this issue earlier this year, with the many cartoons drawn about the invasion of Ukraine, and we are seeing the same argumentative trick employed again. Under any cartoon about Qatar, multiple comments will read something like this:
What about the killings in Palestine?
What about Europe's colonial past?

Most of the topics raised are valid, but the comments themselves aren't. Whataboutism is a cheap trick to divert attention away from the injustice the cartoon is dealing with. A cartoon can only deal with one subject at a time (mostly). It's only logical that we cartoonists are currently focused on Qatar and what's going on there. Over the past decade, Cartoon Movement has published cartoons on a wide array of issues, by a wide range of cartoonists from all over the world, including all of the ones raised in the social media comments. A simple site search or a look at are collections would prove this.

Not all arguments that point out hypocrisy are whataboutism. It can be very legitimate to point out a double standard, provided it doesn't try to condone the original injustice, or is only meant to draw attention away from said injustice.

2. Human rights are non-negotiable

Following the statement of the German team, we believe that human rights are not cultural or political, but fundamental. Some of the comments we've seen argue that guests should honor the rules set by Qatar (such the players not wearing the 'One Love' armband). We strongly disagree. Following this reasoning, no one could address the inhuman way Europe deals with migrants and refugees at any European event, or the many human rights abuses of the United States in decades of misguided foreign policy when the Olympics, World Cup or any other major event would take place there. It would severely limit the space of journalists, activists and cartoonists to raise awareness about subjects that need to be addressed, precisely when the world's focus is on the country in question.

Other comments argue that we should accept cultural differences. In our view, criminalizing same-sex relationships isn't a cultural difference. It's the oppression of part of the people living in Qatar. And if cartoons should do one thing, it is to fight against oppression.


Rainbow card for Qatar - Del Rosso_0Cartoon by Ema Del Rosso

Events like the World Cup put a country in the spotlight. Qatar has been put in a negative light. It might be true that past hosts of the World Cup should have been under more scrutiny as well, but that doesn't excuse Qatar or FIFA from their wrongdoings. And we'll continue to share cartoons that reflect that.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor

Newsletter out next Monday!

Mujer arrastrada de celular

There is no escape (except for the unsubscribe button)! Our newsletter will be hitting your inbox on Monday. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, you can subscribe here. We send out one (and only one) email out monthly with our latest news and most popular cartoons.

10 cartoons about the World Cup in Qatar

In 2021, the Guardian revealed that an estimated 6,500 migrant workers died in Qatar during the construction of the stadiums that will host the World Cup. Since then, cartoonists have commented on the World Cup with a steady stream of cartoons, mostly featuring footballs, skulls, stadiums and graveyards. As the World Cup is set to start on Sunday, we take this opportunity to share 10 of our favorites. If you'd like to see even more Qatar World Cup cartoons, you can visit our collection.


Spanish cartoonist KAP offers a suggestion to those planning to go to the World Cup:



A simple visual that doesn't need any explanation, by Dan Murphy:



We've seen many cartoons featuring skeletons beneath the football field, but this one by Maarten Wolterink, titled Revenge of the workers, takes the cake.

Maarten W


Another cartoon with workers buried beneath the football field, but this one by Luc Vernimmen manages to include a lot of detail; we especially like the FIFA official approvingly testing the grass:



Although we've seen many footballs transformed into skulls, this visual by Morhaf Youssef is quite unique:



Zach from the Philippines offers this powerful visual:



This cartoon by MATE from Argentina plays with another symbol that we see frequently in cartoons about this topic, the worker's helmet:



Jawad Morad manages to use the Iwo Jima pose trope in a very clever way:

Jawad Morad


We couldn't do a selection of cartoons about Qatar without including at least one skull, so here it is in a cartoon by Mir Suhail:



The final cartoon in our modest selection is by French cartoonist Bernard Bouton and shows the only score that really matters:


Political cartooning in Hungary

By Tjeerd Royaards, Cartoon Movement editor


221108 Satire and the law


These past few days, I had the opportunity to spend some time getting to know the cartooning scene in Hungary. Cartoon Movement was in Budapest for Cartoons in Court, a research project into satire and the law. The research team consists of four academics from various universities around the world. Representing Cartoon Movement, I am the fifth member of the project as a so-called stakeholder, providing a link to actual practitioners of satire (cartoonists).

As Hungarian democracy slowly slides towards authoritarianism under the leadership of Victor Orbán, being a cartoonist in Hungary is increasingly challenging. I met with some cartoonists from the cartoonist association at the Association of Hungarian journalists. The fact that they are part of the journalist association is a good thing, but that's one of the few positives that I can say about political cartoons in Hungary (aside from the excellent cartoons and the cartoonists themselves, of course).

First of all, there is basically only one full-time cartoonist in the country. His name is Gábor Pápai and he is perhaps the most renowned cartoonist in Hungary, making a daily cartoon for Népszava, the last independent newspaper left. The rest is working part-time, unpaid, or is struggling to find any publication to run their work, as the vast majority of Hungarian media is under control of Orbán and therefore not very open to political satire.


Cartoon-Gabor-Papai-3Cartoon by Gábor Pápai


One other gem of political satire can be found on the covers of economic magazine HVG, which has a decade-long tradition of making sharp satirical covers.

FI-ABJXXsAkNkBWA cover of HGV with Victor Orbán and Vladimir Putin from April 2022.


Gábor and his colleagues have gotten into trouble numerous times in the past two years and Gabor's newspaper is currently in the process of appealing to the European Court of Human Rights after the Hungarian Supreme Court ruled one of Gabor's cartoons to be insulting to Christians. I'm not going to go into the details of the court proceedings here, but you can head over to the website of Cartooning for Peace for a detailed explanation of both the cartoon and the court case. You can also watch this video, made when Gábor was named one of the recipients (alongside Ukrainian cartoonist Vladimir Kazanevsky) of the Kofi Annan Courage in Cartooning Award 2022:



Suffice it to say that the red lines are many. Religion is one, but other cartoonists have gotten in trouble for depicting Orbán as a painful boil on the body of Europe, or by drawing the Hungarian people as pigs. Although the latter two examples haven't lead to court cases, the artists and their publications have faced threats and harassment from government officials and people close to the regime.



His underlying condition caused dependence'

Cartoon by Gábor Pápai, for which his newspaper had to pay a fine and publish a formal apology.


221108 Presentation CEU'

I don’t have the slightest wish to have it, not even on my back but it stings and itches as if there was an ugly ulcer on my splendid body, Doctor.'


Cartoon by Weisz Béla



In this comic the Hungarian people are portrayed as pigs. In panel 1, they are arguing about politics; in panel 2, Orbán comes along asking if he can help rid hem of the 'migrant pest'. In panel 3, two pigs who support Orbán are trying to get the third pig in line; and finally, in panel 4, they all end up in the same place, the butcher shop.

Cartoon by Marabu


On November 8, we held an event at the Central European University, to present our ongoing research. I invited Gábor to come and speak about his work and the challenges he faces. Unfortunately, students couldn't attend in person,  as the CEU is no longer allowed to teach students in Budapest, because Orbán took away the accreditation and all the student facilities have moved to Vienna.

Gábor was pessimistic about the future of press freedom in his country, which in his opinion will go the same route as Russia, restricting free speech further and further. In the face of this growing oppression, Gábor has continued to create sharp cartoons, trying to provoke the authorities. However, the new strategy of the government has veered away from stimulating public outrage and court cases, opting for silence and indifference instead. This indifference, along with the insidious and unrelenting takeover of Hungarian media, might well prove successful.

Stay tuned for a recording of the event and a more in-depth interview with Gábor Pápai in the near future.