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Editorial: Cartooning the future


Over the years, we have done numerous educational projects. Editorial cartoons work well in the classroom, because they teach students to think about what's going on in the world, about thinking critically and about the power of visual communication.

In this week's editorial, I wanted to share some cartoons from the project Cartooning the future in Lithuania that is hosted on our sister website The Next Movement. Cartooning the future challenges students from different schools throughout Lithuania to think about human rights issues, and to come up with their own cartoon ideas on the subject.

The best student sketches are then turned into professional cartoons by our global team of cartoonists.

Here is an idea by Austėja from Merkinė Vincas Krėvė gymnasium: 'My sketch portrays people who are pushing alcohol bottles off the cliff. When they push the bottles away they stay in a bright, beautiful world.'



And the resulting cartoon by Marin Chren from Slovakia, with a slightly different take on the idea:



Love is Love, by Kamila from Merkinė Vincas Krėvė gymnasium.



This idea was picked up by Zach from the Philippines.



Here's a sketch by Kęstutis from Merkinė Vincas Krėvė gymnasium.



And the cartoon by Amorim from Brazil.



Be sure to check out the project page on the TNM website. Not only can you find many more ideas that were turned into cartoons, the website developer added some nice features to navigate the project and compare the sketches to the cartoons.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor



Review: Red Lines


Red Lines - Political Cartoons and the Struggle against Censorship
Cherian George & Sonny Liew
The MIT Press
448 pages

The number of (international or English) books that deal with political cartoons are few and far between. We did our last in-depth book review in 2016, on a book about comics journalism. Either we have missed some titles - unlikely, as we keep a sharp eye on anything and everything related to editorial cartoons - or there's just not that much being written about cartoons. All the more reason to give some attention to the upcoming publication Red Lines by Cherian George and Sonny Liew. This 448-page behemoth not only gives a broad and comprehensive overview of all forms of censorship, it does so in style, as the authors opted to present their book as a graphic narrative.

And it couldn't have come at a better time. The number of functioning democracies around the world is dwindling, and press freedom is caught in the wake of this trend towards authoritarianism. At the time of writing, the Taliban have taken over Afghanistan and I know of at least two cartoonists that are desperately trying to flee the new (and likely) oppressive regime. The author of the book, Cherian George, is a Professor of Media Studies at Hong Kong University; based in Hong Kong, he himself is witnessing the potential collapse of democracy first-hand.

The book gives a thorough account of cases where cartoonists have been harassed, threatened and murdered for the drawings they made, most frequently at the hand of oppressive regimes or extremist (religious) groups. But the book has a scope beyond the censorship of violent dictatorships. It promises a 'grand tour of censorship', looking at cases of censorship all over the world. The book was over three years in the making, during which time Cherian George traveled across the globe to interview over 60 cartoonists about their experiences with different forms of censorship.


The scope is, I think, the biggest achievement of the book. George effective shows that violent censorship is actually a small percentage of all cases of censorship. In our interconnected world, total censorship isn't practical anymore for oppressive regimes, so most have opted for new strategies of soft censorship (George calls this 'Post-Orwellian strategies'). These strategies include discrediting the cartoonist or threatening to punish (by either removing funding or access to government) the publication in which the cartoon appeared. He then moves on to market censorship, showing how capitalist forces have both decreased the possibility for cartoonists to publish their work and get payment for it and pressure cartoonists to draw or not draw about certain topics. In addition, the book also deals specifically with censorship on the internet, gender-based censorship and censorship in wartime (taking a look at the political climate for cartoons in the aftermath of 9-11).

One of the most scary things for cartoonists is that you often cannot predict what cartoon will get you in trouble. Most cartoonists are familiar with the red lines of the country and society they live and work in, and adhere to these when drawing cartoons, but that does not prevent from sparking controversy by accident. An Iranian cartoonist drew a cockroach for the children's supplement of a government newspaper, and ends up being accused of targeting an ethnic minority. A Venezuelan cartoonist draws a gag cartoon of a rat funeral two weeks before a politician is assassinated, but the cartoon is published after this murder (the magazine was already at the printer at the time of the murder): controversy and accusations ensue, forcing the cartoonist to leave the country.

A lot of attention is of course devoted to the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Over six years after the attack, the book not only provides historical context for the attack, with a thorough account of Charlie Hebdo's track record of controversial cartoons and various lawsuits before January 2015, but it also opens a frank discussion on where and how the cartoons that Charlie Hebdo publishes fit in with press freedom. Immediately following the 2015 attack, it was almost impossible to condemn the attack while also being critical of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. George does not shy away from this question, giving equal attention to defenders of Charlie Hebdo cartoons and to people that argue that the anti-Islam cartoons targeted an already stigmatized and discriminated group, French muslims.

This, perhaps much-needed, discussion of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons is preceded by a chapter in which cartoonists talk about how they 'censor' themselves to avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes and offending people for the wrong reason. Because political satire isn't about offending just because you can; it's about using satire, which definitely includes the right to offend, to hold those in power accountable and expose their wrongs. But, to use a cliche, cartoonists should always punch up, not down. And there is nothing wrong with a degree of self-scrutiny to make sure the imagery and symbols you use as a cartoonist mock those that should be mocked without collateral damage.


I cannot review this book without saying something about the form. The graphic narrative is designed by Sonny Liew, an Eisner Award-winning cartoonist and illustrator. Presenting the narrative as kind of a graphic novel not only sets the tone and atmosphere of the different chapters, it makes the narrative engaging and accessible.. For those who find reading a book of close to 450-pages challenging, I can promise the graphic novel approach makes all the difference.

So, all positives. If I would have to mention something negative, it would be that I was familiar with the majority of the cases being dealt with by the author. This is to be expected, as I deal with cartoonists from around the world on a daily basis, and keep a keen eye on cartoonists getting in trouble. If you are either an internationally oriented cartoonist or a well-informed cartoon aficionado, this book might not hold much secrets for you. That said, I did discover some new cases, and, perhaps more importantly, I did gain new insights along the way. In conclusion, I would recommend this title to anyone with an interest in political satire.

The book is on sale August 31st. More info here.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor

New cartoonist: Adão Conde

Garganta_Loriga_Capa_AF_v01Cartoon about the impact of corona on cultural life.

Adão Conde is a Portuguese illustrator and visual artist, living and working near Lisbon, Portugal. He makes a living from art pieces, commissions and corporate or editorial freelance work and recently branched out to editorial cartoons. He now publishes editorial cartoons in two Portuguese newspapers, Tal & Qual (a tabloid Portuguese weekly newspaper) and Valor Local (a regional Newspaper).

Editorial: Afghanistan in cartoons

This week was Afghanistan week at Cartoon Movement. Given the astoundingly rapid advance of the Taliban and the ensuing chaos ofter they took control of Kabul, with thousands trying to flee the new and likely oppressive regime, this is no surprise. It is unfortunate that other deserving topics, such as the earthquake in the poorest nation of Latin America, Haiti (it seems they never catch a break), didn’t see much ink because of this.

For this editorial, I wanted to keep it simple and just share a few of the best Afghanistan cartoons we’ve gotten that haven’t been featured on our homepage or on our social media channels yet.

The first topic many cartoonists chose to visualize was the chaos at Kabul airport, focusing on the desperate attempts of people to flee, climbing onto a US military aircraft as it was taking off, with deadly consequence. Cartoonists saw this as an apt metaphor of how the US was leaving without any responsibility or empathy for the Afghan people.


TalebanCartoon by Doaa Eladl


BDE757E4-3212-4CAC-B55B-FCE08D013C22Cartoon by Naser Jafari


USA_Cartoon by Pedalex


Other cartoonists focused on the grim future for the people of Afghanistan, and women in particular:


20210816Cartoon by Assad Bina Khahi


Cartoonmovement34Cartoon by Mahnaz Yazdani


AfghanistanCartoon by Luc Descheemaeker


Another set of cartoons focused on the Taliban, with a subset of cartoons devoted the new image of moderation the Taliban are trying to present to the world.


Taliban - KZCartoon by Kürşat Zaman


10423C13-4D62-4E68-B19F-A81E9EE4973ACartoon by Emad Hajjaj


18_9_Die Neue TalibanCartoon by Leopold Maurer


This cartoon by Maarten Wolterink perhaps says it best, although I fear history is doomed to repeat itself...




Many more Afghanistan cartoon can of course be found in our newsroom.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor

Tents beyond tents: Haiti earthquake comic from 2011

In 2011, the Cartoon Movement team spent a month on Haiti to work with Haitian comic artists and journalists to document life in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. Now, 10 year later, Haiti is again struck by a large earthquake, while the county has yet to recover from the last one. This comic is still sadly relevant:






























Editorial: why awards for editorial cartoons matter

Yesterday we wrote about the announcement of the shortlist of the European Cartoon Award. This award is a big deal, not just because of the award of 10,000 euro for the winning cartoonist, but also because it is organized by the European Press Prize and focuses specifically on editorial cartoons that comment on the news.

There are a ton of cartoon awards out there. So much, in fact, that there is a whole segment of cartoonists making their money not by selling their work to media, but by entering into cartoon competitions and collecting prize money (if they win). There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but these cartoon contests tend to focus on generic subjects, often not even political. There are competitions about wine, tourism, animals, historic cities, traffic etc., etc. Even when they do deal with subjects that are political, these are often broad topics such as human rights, climate or sustainability.

AgraCartoon by Emilio Agra

 The generic nature of these contests creates a specific dynamic. The cartoons that are submitted are very often generic as well. Think deserts and cracked earth (most often with the obligatory skull lying on the ground) when we're talking about climate change, prison cells and gallows when we're talking about human rights. These generic cartoons have the added bonus that they can be used for multiple competitions by cartoonists. I have frequently seen the same cartoon appearing in different competitions over and over again. But it comes with a problem: when many cartoonists use the same visual language and symbols, many of the cartoons will be the same as well. This in turn leads to many, many accusations of plagiarism. So many, that some contests now have a probation period for finalists, so other cartoonists can complain of they see similarities to their own or other cartoons.


0000006An example of suspected plagiarism


But I digress. My main point is, these competitions often have little to do with political cartoons. Competitions for true political cartoons are few and far between, at least internationally. By true political cartoons I mean cartoons that comment on a specific news event that happened at a specific time.

In the US, there are actually quite a few: of course the coveted Pulitzer for editorial cartooning (even though no Pulitzer was given this year), but also the Robert F.Kennedy award, the Herblock Prize or the Clifford K. & James T. Berryman Award, all the way down to local and regional journalistic awards that include a prize for the best cartoons. There is a catch: most of these awards come with a submission fee. This was fine in a time when your newspaper would submit your work for you, but isn't now that most cartoonists are freelancers struggling to make ends meet. The good thing about these awards is that they focus on the journalistic aspect of cartooning, considering them an integral part of a free media, just as it should be in my opinion. In the Netherlands (where I live) we have just one annual political cartoon award; I am not an expert in the field of national cartoon awards, but I suspect many other countries similarly have one or none prize(s) for editorial cartoons.

Internationally, perhaps the only important award for political cartoons (in the narrow sense defined above) is the World Press Cartoon. The creation of the European Cartoon Award is a very welcome addition to a rather barren landscape. Personally, I would love to see the European Cartoon Award become an integral part of the European Press Prize, and become the European Pulitzer for cartoonists.

So then, why does all this matter? Because I believe that for political cartoons to survive it's essential that they are recognized as a distinct and relevant part of the journalistic discourse. In a world where the profession is increasingly under threat of economical constraints and censorship, having reputable journalistic awards that specifically award editorial cartoons can help to remind people why political satire is vital for democracy and freedom.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor

European Cartoon Award shortlist


This week, the European Press Prize and Studio Europa Maastricht announced the shortlist of 16 cartoons that are nominated for the European Cartoon Award 2021, from a total of 287 submissions, sent by cartoonists from 28 countries.

We are incredibly proud that 8 of the 16 nominated cartoons were first published on Cartoon Movement!

The winner, who will receive €10,000, will be announced in September. For more details about the prize and the judges, go here.