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February 2015
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April 2015

The Fundamental Right to Insult?

Fair_dialogue___alex_falc_changImage by Falco.

Following the attack on Charlie Hebdo, I’ve been prone to introspection regarding my chosen profession. Well-known US cartoonist Daryl Cagle has referred to cartoons as the ‘flashpoint for a clash of civilizations’. I’m not sure I agree. Using terms like ‘clash of civilizations’ immediately excludes the possibility that there is common ground between ‘civilizations’ or that there is room for debate. And I think we should be weary to define press freedom and freedom of speech and opinion as examples of Western moral superiority.

The single most valuable experience I had in the week after the Paris attacks was talking to a classroom full of high school students in the Netherlands to discuss freedom of speech. I want to share the gist of that discussion here, as I think it provides valuable insights. Not insights in who’s right and who’s wrong, but insights as to how we should debate the issue.

The class was a mix of Dutch students, and students descended from immigrants, most of them Muslims. The Muslim students were confused, and angry. They felt (and perhaps rightly so) that Muslims and Islam were consistently scorned and ridiculed by the rest of society. Why should people be allowed to insult them and their beliefs?

The reality in Europe is that we live in mixed societies. Although some groups of people would like to change this, people of immigrant descent are here to stay, and immigrants will probably continue to settle in Europe. With them come different customs and beliefs. Part of living together in one society with different groups is to accommodate one another. To be tolerant and respectful. But another, equally important part, at least in an open society, is the ability to be frank with one another, to question each other’s actions and principles, to debate. This public debate serves to answer one ongoing question: what kind of society do we all want to live in?

Part of the public debate is also the right to insult. To prohibit this would be a fundamental breach with the notion of free speech. Because who knows what is insulting to whom? Sometimes insults are a necessary tool to call into question power structures like religions. And sometimes they are just insulting. But you can’t have one without the other.

But there is another side to the discussion, raised by the students in the classroom, as well as by other Muslims I talked to over the past months. A healthy public debate is one in which every group has an equal place at the table. Many Muslims feel that their place is far less than equal. They feel they lack the capacity to respond to insults, to take part in the debate.  So when do insults become so one-sided and frequent they can be considered bullying?

Valid questions, and questions I could not immediately answer. But the purpose of meeting with these students wasn’t to provide definitive answers. It was to explain my perspective, as a cartoonist, and for me to understand their perspective. In understanding each other’s view we find common ground. And where we find common ground, the debate can continue.

Tjeerd Royaards

New Cartoonist: Arwa Moukbel


We’re always excited when we can welcome a new cartoonist from a country where we had none before. And some countries are more special than others. So we’re absolutely thrilled that Arwa Moukbel, a 26-year old female cartoonist from Yemen has joined Cartoon Movement.

Being a cartoonist in Yemen is hard, and Arwa has not been able to publish her work in national media because of the limited freedom of press. She does publish her work on Facebook (in Arabic) and we are very happy to provide her with a means to reach an international audience

Children’s Rights Project

We’ve started an educational project for the Global Teenager Project about Children’s Rights. Cartoon Movement provides the space for schools and cartoonists to work together. Students that participate in the project upload their ideas in the form of sketches and drawings, and our cartoonists use these as inspiration to create professional cartoons.


Sketch by WIKILara, cartoon by Guffo.

Check out all the sketches and cartoons in our project newsroom.

Cartoon Movement Receives Grant

Stichting+Democratie+Media+logo+met+rode+achtergrondWhen we launched Cartoon Movement in 2010, we were very lucky to have grants from several Dutch and international organizations who thought cartoons and comics journalism were important, and who believed in our concept of building an international hub for political cartooning. Although we could not have created Cartoon Movement without this funding, it has always been our goal to become financially independent.

Since 2012, we have operated without any grant or subsidy, proving that it’s possible to create a sustainable platform for political cartoonists that can pay cartoonists for their work. This has not always been easy. Although we have done many great projects, our budget to independently publish cartoons on current events has not always been as plentiful as we’d like it to be. That is why we hugely appreciate the decision of the Foundation for Democracy and Media (Stichting Democratie en Media) to provide funding to do exactly that.

In recognition of the importance and relevance of political cartoons, we have received 15,000 euro from the Foundation for Democracy and Media to publish independent political cartoons on current events throughout 2015.

My Peace, Your Peace

After a very successful run last year, we’ve launched a new edition of our Peace & Justice project. Cartoon Movement is teaming up once again with the Hague project Peace and Justice, an initiative of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the city of The Hague to create a global debate about peace & justice that will involve editorial cartoonists and students from around the world.

TomasIdea by Elisa Olvera and Nan, cartoon by Tomas.

The title of this year’s project is My Peace, Your Peace, to reflect how we all depend on each other to create a sustainable peace. We have to understand each other's perspective to build peace. 2015 also marks the 70th anniversary of two institutions that play (or should play) an important role in creating and maintaining peace worldwide: the United Nations and the International Court of Justice.

Students around the world contribute ideas for cartoons that reflect their perspective on peace, and our network of cartoonists turns these ideas into editorial cartoons. The best cartoons, and the ideas they are based on, will be selected for the exhibition at the end of the project. In September 2015, this exhibition will be on display in the iconic Peace Palace in The Hague. In 2016, the exhibition will travel to New York, to the headquarters of the United Nations.

ElchicotristeIdea by Karina Steens, Kiran Ghoerbien and Sharon Baldewsingh, cartoon by Elchicotriste.


Read more about the project here. The images shown are the result of the first workshop we organized for the project, at The Hague University. You can see more cartoons here.

Financing the Future

Manos SymeonakisCartoon by Manos Symeonakis.

We’ve started yet another project, similar to the one we’re doing on Data and Development. Partnering with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), we have set up a project newsroom to create cartoons for Financing the Future (March 17-18, 2015 in Accra, Ghana).

The goal of the conference is to provide fresh perspectives on global development and finance: how can international public finance best contribute to accelerating progress in development? Financing the Future will feature an exhibition of the best cartoons submitted in our newsroom. Take a look at the submissions here.

Data and Development

HassanCartoon by Fadi Abou Hassan.

Our latest cartoon project is a partnership with Data-Pop Alliance, a think tank on Big Data. The think tank was co-founded by Emmanuel Letouzé, who is also a cartoonist that contributes to our site. We have set up a project newsroom to create cartoons for the Cartagena Data Festival (April 20-22, 2015 in Colombia). The goal of the festival is to stir discussions and connections in the data (open data, big data, official statistics) and development community, to lay out the opportunities and challenges, risks and requirements, of leveraging the new data ecosystem to foster human development.

Cartoons will help foster these discussions and debates. The Cartagena Data Festival will feature an exhibition of the best cartoons submitted here. Take a look at the submissions here.