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October 2014
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December 2014

Infocomic on the Election of ICC Judges

InfocomicThe International Criminal Court will elect six new judges in December, in a process that is certainly not as straightforward as simply casting a vote. Justice Hub asked us to create an infographic that would explain the importance of these elections and would show the complexities involved.

We came up with an infocomic, a crossover between a comic and an infographic, made by Nicaraguan comic artist Pedro X. Molina, which tells the story of the elections in a lighthearted but informative way.

Part 1 of the infocomic is published today. Part 2 will be online next week.

Let's Talk About International Justice

Jhub banner

If you're a regular visitor of our newsroom, you might have noticed a lot of cartoons on topics related to the ICC in the past few months. We have partnered with Justice Hub, an international platform focusing on international justice.

Every week, our cartoonists create cartoons on a range of current topics related to international justice. These are all sent to the Justice Hub newsroom. Three cartoons are selected and published on Justice Hub each week. Not all these cartoons also make it to the homepage of Cartoon Movement, because some of them are quite specific to cases at the ICC. You can of course see them on the Justice Hub website, but we have also created a project page where you can see all of them.

JH cartoons

In addition to cartoons, we're producing comics journalism for Justice Hub: comics explaining how the ICC works, such as an infocomic on the election of ICC judges, and also a series of comics about post-election violence in Kenya and Ivory Coast, telling the stories of both victims and perpetrators. Both the infocomic and the first comics on post-election violence will be published soon.

New Police Action Against Zunar

ZunarThe Malaysian government is causing trouble again for cartoonist Zunar. Last month a Malaysian appeals court overturned a government ban on two of Zunar’s books, but last week three of his assistants were arrested for selling his cartoon book. Yesterday, he informed us the police has open up new investigation against him under The Sedition Act:

12 Nov 2014 (8 pm Malaysia time): I received a call from a police officer in Kuala Lumpur to inform that they are investigating me under The Sedition Act. I need to report to the police station next week. According to the officer the investigation is relating to my latest cartoon book, but he did not say which one.
Earlier today, my webmaster who helps me operate my official website, was summoned to the police station. Last week, three of my sale assistants were arrested for selling my latest cartoon books "Conspiracy to Imprison Anwar" and "Pirate of The Carry-BN".
I will call for a press conference tomorrow and will issue a full statement after that.

Needless to say we will continue to follow the case.

Dutch Verdict Could Spell Trouble for Cartoonists

Cartoon Movement is based in the Netherlands, a good place for a media organization, as it's one of the countries that has been in the top 3 of the Press Freedom Index for years. Yet this freedom remains precious, a fact proved by a recent verdict forcing a Dutch cartoonist to rectify his work. This verdict could threaten all political cartoonists in the Netherlands.

In October, cartoonist Ruben L. Oppenheimer published a cartoon about a lawyer (named Theo Hiddema). In his cartoon, Oppenheimer called Hiddema a 'shifty lawyer'. Upon publication of this cartoon, Hiddema decided to sue Oppenheimer, claiming this cartoon would do damage to his personal reputation and business.


Translation top text: Shifty lawyer sued over book.
Translation speech bubble: But I'm not gay

Context: the cartoon refers to the autobiography published by Hiddema, in which a private investigator is accused of extortion. The private investigator has sued the lawyer for defamation, and in turn accuses Hiddema of extortion. The cartoon ties this to another part of the autobiography, where Hiddema states people often think he's gay, but he's not.

Whether or not Mr. Hiddema is indeed a shifty lawyer with ties to criminals is not the interesting part here, but the verdict in this case is, because it has far-reaching implications for political cartoonists and satirists in the Netherlands.

The court decided that Oppenheimer should rectify his cartoon, removing the word 'shifty', because he has no evidence to back up this allegation. This verdict (available in Dutch here) is remarkable, because it sets a precedent that anything in a political cartoon should be backed by facts. A political cartoon, like other forms of satire, uses exaggeration, distortion, humor and shock to make a point. It is often a derivation of facts, but can also be based on facts that are not yet known to be true, or portray a hypothetical situation. Because its satire, the rules of journalism (fact-checking, listing your sources) do not apply. But this verdict seems to suggest they do.

Although Hiddema has announced he no longer wants rectification of the cartoon, claiming he made his point, Oppenheimer has announced he will appeal the verdict, to the European Court of Human Rights if need be, because of its implications for cartoonists.

We will continue to follow the case.

Comic Tackles Big Data

CoverComics journalism is doing well. More and more media organizations realize the potential of this form of storytelling. Last week, Al Jazeera America published its first comic, a 46-page graphic novella titled: Terms of Service: Understanding Our Role in the World of Big Data. The comic is a joint venture of Al Jazeera America reporter Michael Keller and comic artist Josh Neufeld and is freely available online. According to Al Jazeera, the comic sets out to 'a thought provoking, entertaining field guide to help smart people understand how their personal, and often very private, data is collected and used.'

We can only applaud Al Jazeera's decision to produce a comic. It's great to see a major news outlet recognize the power of comics journalism and use it to tackle a serious issue like big data. Neufeld's artwork is excellent and the story has a nice flow. It touches upon a number of serious and complicated issues connected to big data and how big data could shape the future society we live in. Part of the aim of the comic is to provide people with a foundation to ask their own questions.

That goal is certainly fulfilled, but the downside is that the comic touches on so many important issues that you sometimes feel you are left with more questions than answers. Some of the subjects the comic deals with are definitely worthy of a more in-depth analysis, such as the way insurance companies use data to fundamentally transform the way they work, or the way data is used (also by journalists) to create narratives that might be faced on facts, but are not always true. We hope this piece will be a proof of concept for Al Jazeera, so that they might produce more comics that will deal with these issues in more detail.

Sample page

Another interesting aspect of the comic is how the story is told, through the characters 'Josh' and 'Michael'. Josh and Michael travel the country to talk to experts about big data; as they travel, their interaction provides the backbone of the story. This works very well, at times it feels like your watching a good documentary instead of reading a comic. Sometimes, however, the interactions feels slightly too whimsical, as if Al Jazeera thought that comics absolutely need to be funny. As a result, the comedy feels a bit forced here and there. But it might just be a matter of personal taste; maybe comics journalism needs to incorporate more humor to reach a mass audience. Time will tell.

These slight drawbacks notwithstanding, we can highly recommend the read. The comic does what it sets out to do: it educates, it stimulates you to ask questions and it's entertaining.

We can only hope this is the first of many comics to be produced by major media organizations.