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.