Editorial: political cartoonists versus Meta

Twice in the last three weeks Meta has decided to take down cartoons; first a cartoon by Vasco Gargalo from the Cartoon Movement Facebook page and Instagram and this week a cartoon by me from my personal Facebook profile. Both cartoons dealt with the oppression of women by the Taliban. It seems drawing a person with a beard and a headscarf is now enough to sympathize with terrorism, at least according to Facebook.

Cartoon_CM23__2anos_talibans.3Cartoon by Vasco Gargalo about the Taliban, taken down by Meta from the Cartoon Movement's Facebook and Instagram.

This is not a new problem. Cartoonists see their work taken down frequently by Meta due to a perceived infringement of its policies. It's difficult to predict when cartoons are picked up by the algorithm. In other instances, users that don't agree with the point of view of a certain cartoon can report it and have it taken down.

We cartoonists have a love-hate relationship with social media; I hate giving my work away for free to a platform that makes money off of it by surrounding it with ads, but in all honesty my career would not be where it is today if I hadn't used social media to get some exposure for my work.


230830 TalibanMy own Taliban cartoon, removed from my Facebook profile, but at the time of writing still up on my Instagram.

Protesting Meta's decision to remove content is not oftem successful. However, since a couple of years Meta has established an independent Oversight Board where you can send an official appeal. Although the position of social media is changing (and the influence of Facebook definitely isn't what it used to be), they still play an important role in the public debate. I believe cartoons also have an important role in the public debate, and cartoonists should be able to produce political satire without fear of having it taken down randomly. One solution could be to have a special verification for professional cartoonists; once verified, you could be sure to get a human to review your work if it is reported by the algorithm or a disgruntled user.

To this effect, I've submitted an appeal to the oversight board. I'm not expecting much, as they only select very few cases to make an official ruling, but if the pick this one it might contribute to a better position for cartoonists on Meta.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor

Editorial: the decline of editorial cartoons (and how to stop it)

Rats_leaving_a_sinking_ship__fabio_magnasciuttiCartoon by Fabio Magnasciutti

It's been a while since the last editorial (time is a precious commodity these days), but this week I felt the need to write one. The reason: devastating news for editorial cartooning from across the pond as three Pulitzer-winning cartoonists were fired in one shocking day. Jack Ohman of the Sacramento Bee, Joel Pett of the Lexington Herald-Leader and Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer were all let go as the parent company of these newspapers, McClatchy, has decided it will no longer run daily opinion cartoons.

You can read all the details in this article in the Washington Post. Ohman called the event 'another brick in the wall', and I can't help but agree. The last few years have seen many troubling developments that all point in just one direction: the demise of political cartooning. A short recap:

-In 2019 the (international edition of the) New York Times decided to stop running political cartoons.

In 2021, no Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartoons was given.

-In 222, the Pulitzer Prize decided to change the name of the category Editorial cartoons to Illustrated Reporting and Commentary.

-Also in 2022, Gannett , a large US newspaper company with 250 titles decided that the time for a traditional editorial page (the home of the political cartoon) has come and gone

-In 2023, World Press cartoon announced it wasn't able to organize the prize, due to lack of funding.

This list probably isn't complete, but it already paints a dire picture for the profession. And although it's mostly centers on the US, I fear American cartoonists might be at the forefront of developments that will hit us all. I firmly believe public appetite for good political cartoons is as high as ever, but it seems newspaper editors, for reasons that I cannot begin to fathom, do not agree. I used to think it was mainly a money issue, but cartoonist are not that well-paid, and the list of developments detrimental to cartoonists seems to go well beyond mere cost-cutting. To add to the misery, as the number of newspaper spots continues to decline, online media isn't keen on creating new spots for cartoonists either.

Should we just sit back and watch political cartoonists die out (or, at least, those trying to make a living with it)? Or is there something we can do? I would suggest there is. So are are my thoughts, translated into points of action:

-I've said this before:  cartoonists need to join and become more active in journalistic associations and unions; this will integrate the profession more into the journalistic landscape and will make us more visible as part of the newsroom.

-We need to open up conversations with opinion editors, visual editors, editors-in-chief and publishers. Talking to the people who ultimately decide if and what kind of cartoons will be published will help us understand what their expectations are and will help us explain why political cartoons matter in a publication. These kinds of discussions can be informal, but it would be great to organize public dialogues in different countries and at international events featuring newspaper editors and cartoonists, with newspaper readers in the the audience also sharing their input.

-We need to double-down on the promotion of editorial cartoons. More events featuring cartoonists, more political cartoon exhibitions, publish more cartoon books, create awareness around cartoonists who fight oppression in countries with little or no press freedom. In short, do everything we can to remind people about the vital role of political satire in a democracy.

To stop the demise, we need to make ourselves more visible. We should do this by appealing directly to our audiences with exhibitions and such, but I think it's equally if not more important to remind newspaper editors why cartoons were part of the newspaper in the first place, and to explain to online media and their editors that cartoons have as much relevance there as they do in their offline counterparts.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor

Pseudo-journalism puts cartoonist in danger

By Emanuele Del Rosso

This is an editorial about poor journalism and Charlie Hebdo. But - sorry to disappoint - it is not another rant against the French satirical magazine. The story is another, and it takes place in Italy.

The Mullahs Get Out contest

On January 4, Charlie Hebdo published a special number dedicated to mullahs, targeting in particular Ali Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual leader since 1989. The issue contains, next to the usual staff content, 35 cartoons, the winners of a contest called Mullahs Get Out.


One of the 35 selected cartoons was realized by a fellow Italian artist, Paolo Lombardi. The cartoon appears in the front page of the issue as well, as it is quite a punchy work, in line with Charlie’s style. I then saw Paolo’s work go viral, posted and reposted around the web, used both to support the Iranian protesters’ cause and to pillory Paolo and Charlie Hebdo.

Obviously, the publication of those cartoons didn’t sit well with the Iranian regime. Official statements and threats of retaliation were made. We all remember what happened in 2015 at the Charlie Hebdo’s offices and, before that, in 2005, the controversy sparked by the Jyllands Posten for the series of cartoons against the Prophet Mohammed.

The situation is tense and quite volatile.

Riding the news for a bunch of clicks

In the midst of such polemics, Italian newspapers and TV channels like La Stampa, SkyNews24, Open, La Nazione, and other minor media outlets, published articles explaining that Paolo Lombardi received threats and that he is now under police protection. 

I naturally reached out to him to offer my support. Moreover one of my cartoon was selected by Charlie Hebdo as well, and my family was worried about the situation. I felt like talking about it with him, to hear how things were going and maybe ask for advice. I also suggested him to reach out to Cartoonists Right Network International, a non-profit that works on the safety of cartoonists.

To my great surprise, Paolo told me it is all false.

He was never threatened and he never spoke to the newspapers that published pieces about him being in danger. But there are statements from you, I said! He told me they took them from an interview he gave yesterday for a small local newspaper, during which he absolutely never said he was threatened.

He is now trying to make the media outlets retract or modify their pieces, clearly written for clickbait and to ride a polemic that - if it ever existed - doesn’t even belong to Italy.

From our Facebook conversation: “I told the journalists that called me that they need to publish I was never threatened, but they didn’t do that… They only care about interviewing the cartoonist in danger… they are putting me in danger with their articles.”

This pseudo-journalism puts cartoonists in danger

Being a cartoonist is difficult, it is a tough profession.

Media outlets regularly publish cartoons but don’t hire staff cartoonists anymore, so they are not there to help, in case a cartoonist is threatened or attacked - physical or verbally. Cartoons go viral, sometimes they even get modified, they are sometimes posted and discussed in platforms populated by radicalized individuals. Pays are low, protection is non-existent. In many countries cartoonists are not considered journalists, although they are exposed to all the risks journalists face.

And then, on top of all this, there is shitty journalism. The one that invents news to ride waves of media virality, to bring a little more users to the newspapers’ websites, to sell some more copies, to gain some more visibility. And on top of shitty journalism, there is journalism that picks up fake news and republishes it to piggyback on possible exposure. I don’t even know how to call that.

Paolo was never threatened, and he never spoke to the newspapers that published pieces claiming he is in danger. He tried to make them change their articles and they are not listening.

The juicy news is that an Italian cartoonist is at the center of a situation involving press freedom and a regime and a country that are easily hashtaggable, with a very clear potential for going viral.

It doesn’t matter if Paolo, or any other cartoonist, is actually put in real danger by fake journalism. His name and face are now everywhere, and this can definitely attract the attention of radicalized individuals.

He is now potentially in danger because of this pseudo-journalism.

Someone should do a cartoon about this. Or even better, we should launch a contest: Pseudo-Journalists Get out.

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
Cartoon Movement editor

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

Editorial: portraying extreme right in cartoons

Nazis__marian_kamenskyCartoon by Marian Kamensky

The win of far right political party Sweden Democrats in Sweden (they won about 20% of the vote) prompted a lot of cartoons this week. Drawing cartoons about the extreme right always brings the challenge of which symbols to use. One symbol comes to mind immediately, and you probably guessed it: it's the swastika.

The swastika is problematic as a symbol for several reasons. First of all, it's the most obvious symbol you can use; Nazi-comparisons have long since lost their luster, and making use of the swastika is more often than not a sign of creative fatigue.

Second, social media (an outlet we cartoonists use a lot) doesn't like images of swastikas. Algorithms scour posts and remove them if they detect swastikas, and complaints by other users frequently result in removal of these cartoons as well.

Should we not use the swastika at all, then? I think, at times, the use of this symbol is still valid, but we should be very careful where, when and how to draw it.

For example, I love this cartoon by Dan Murphy, commenting on the Swedish election result. It's a funny spoof on an Ikea ad, but with serious reflection at the heart of the cartoon. It was banned from our Twitter feed in Germany, because of violating their hate-speech laws.


Swedish Assembly


On the other hand, I'm not sure about these cartoons by Zap and Morad Kotkot. They are both well-made visuals, but is the swastika used as a blunt knife here?


The Sweden Democrats...

The Sweden Democrats...


To be fair, I did my own cartoon with a swastika, in which I tried to be clever, but I'm not sure I was successful enough to justify its use. This one was removed from my Instagram feed for -again- violating hate speech laws.


220915 Right-wing victory Sweden


Perhaps the most elegant example of how to make a great cartoon about the far right without resorting to a blunt knife comes from Maarten Wolterink, who has instead opted for combining Swedish mythology with a well-know representation of migrants.




I don't think any symbol should be out of bounds when it comes to satire, and social media companies should definitely be more discriminate when it comes to policing political satire. But I also think some symbols are at their most powerful when they are used the least.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor

Editorial: defending a controversial editorial choice

2943-220902 Ukraine (De Matos)_small


This cartoon by Portuguese cartoonist Rodrigo de Matos, which ran on our homepage last week, stirred up some controversy and even made one of our Ukrainian cartoonists decide to leave Cartoon Movement. Many people consider it to be offensive to Ukraine. Although I concede in retrospect the cartoon might not be our best editor's choice of the year, I do feel the need to explain why we chose it and why I feel it is a valid selection.

First of all, a bit of context: six months have passed since Russia invaded Ukraine and interest in the war in Ukraine is slowly receding. After hundreds, if not thousands of photos and cartoons about the violence and atrocities taking place, people are getting desensitized.

Our aim with the daily editor's choice is to make people think about what's happening in the world. Since the start of the invasion, we published many cartoons that protest the war, Putin's unprovoked bloodshed and the horrors of war as they are inflicted on the Ukrainian people. But as the war continues, these cartoons are less and less effective, as people get used to them. To continue to keep the war top-of-mind, we need to find new perspectives. With Rodrigo's cartoon, we thought we did.

Then onto the cartoon itself, the imagery that Rodrigo chose to use, and our interpretation of it. In the image we see a woman who is a symbol for Ukraine. She is battered and bruised, and pregnant as well. She is a victim of Russian aggression. The baby in her belly is 'hate' as we gather from the word written there. Two horns protruding make it clear that hate is evil. Since Russia forcefully invaded Ukraine, we could conclude the woman is a victim of rape.

The imagery is sharp. But sharp imagery is what cartoons often employ to jolt people into thinking about the subject at hand. In this case, Rodrigo wants us to consider the consequence of the war. Ukraine has been brutally raped, and the (logical) result is hate. The analogy of rape and a resulting child is effective, because the consequence (hate) will be long-lasting. Even after the war ends, it will probably take decades for Ukrainians and Russians to reestablish something approaching friendly relations.

This is a prospective we had not seen in a cartoon yet, and that's why we decided to make it an editor's choice. Yes, the imagery is uncomfortable, but that is sometimes needed to effectively address an issue.

I do understand that people get upset about the image, especially Ukrainians. It's not nice to see your country portrayed as a victim of rape. But in this case we felt the chosen symbols were legitimate given the point the cartoon is trying to make. We might have been wrong (although I continue to think it's a valid cartoon) and we'll probably make our share of controversial editor's choices in the future. When dealing with editorial cartoons, this is bound to happen from time to time.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor

Cartoons at war: some thoughts on 'conflict drawing'

By Emanuele Del Rosso

When large-scale catastrophes, like a natural disaster, the election of Trump, or a war like the Ukrainian one, happen, cartoonists are ready to fire their best drawings. But how hard is it to portray such a polarizing situation as a war? Very hard, let me tell you why.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine - it's been more than a month, time really flies like a hypersonic Russian rocket against a hospital - my social media and website stats have, well, boomed. It might be because I've been drawing more - driven by anger, and a little bit by fear - for a war that seems so near. Proximity is a thing, and I can't apologize for feeling this conflict more than I feel others.


Target - Del Rosso_1

I know, though, that the main reason why people are sharing, liking, and commenting on my cartoons - and the ones of my colleagues, for sure - is that everyone needs information. Trying to make sense of this mess, we resort to the most immediate, most shearable, and often most effective content that populates our social media: cartoons.

But in this baillamme of hearts and thumb-ups, I started asking myself some questions about the position a cartoonist should take towards a conflict. Nothing is black and white, and even if something can be right or wrong, it is worth exploring all the aspects of it, to find a space for reflection.

Here are some of my doubts and thoughts.

Neutrality? Oh c'mon!

Let's start by saying neutrality is not a thing. It was never a thing.
Neutral cartoons simply don't exist, because the meaning of a cartoon lives in the proverbial "eye of the beholder," the mind - and taste - of the public. We put out a cartoon with an idea in mind, sure of its meaning, and then people take it and do what they want with it.

A perfectly neutral cartoon should be a blank slate. But not even, because I can see the clever reader seeing in the white of the canvas a deep longing for peace, and the irony of the cartoonist that, lost for words, uses "white noise" to signify conflict and its opposite, peace, and destruction. Or one can simply scroll down, for some more interesting content.

Sorry for who of you asks for objectivity and neutrality. I'd tell you to go to Switzerland - famously neutral - but even they choose a side in this war.

Emergency prompts oversimplification

In the first days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a flurry of emotional cartoons and blazing political commentary stormed the web.


Making Europe - Del Rosso

And this happens whenever a tragedy unfolds. A kind of knee-jerk response, totally motivated, and yet also completely uncontrolled. I've been hit by this war unlike any other war before - I already said proximity is, unfortunately, an important factor in how much we care about a specific emergency - and I've drawn my fair deal of "knee-jerky" cartoons.

But the problem with an emotional response to an emergency is that there is no space for a correct analysis. Editorial cartoons are there to help people explore a topic, understand its different angles, and reason about it. We want to take an issue into our hands and turn it around, put it under bright light, peek into each and every crack and crevice.

I am not saying Putin's war is right, or that we should be skeptical of the suffering of the Ukrainian people, of course! They need all of our support. But, in this emergency as in every other emergency, we need to keep an eye on the bigger picture, and editorial cartoons are there to remind us we need to stay sharp.

At war with war

How many cartoons with white doves can you see, before feeling the urge of shooting a Russian hypersonic missile at the next one?

I love doves, really. But, fellow cartoonists, I have a question for you: Do we really add anything to the conversation when we draw a dove, ten doves, a thousand doves, with different flags in their beaks, according to where the latest emergency takes place? There are peace doves flying everywhere, so many doves flying over your head that I hope you brought an umbrella with you!

What I mean is that it is ok to be, let's call it this way, "at war with war," but after the aforementioned knee-jerk response we have all the right to have, it is time to draw something else. Let's leave the doves alone.

It is a great time to be a cartoonist

It is a great time to be a cartoonist! No, I'm joking, it's not. It might seem that extraordinary times make for good cartoons, but in fact, they don't.


Outside the frame - Del Rosso

For one, polarization in the public discourse, and a lack of perspective - too many emotions involved - make a discussion almost impossible. I drew a cartoon trying to reflect on all the other - many - wars that are unfolding in the world while the Ukrainian conflict is given all the ink and paper we have, and soon I had to stop reading the comments and the messages I kept receiving, because many were unsettling.

On top of that, many cartoons are stolen, and published in media outlets that use them to better sell their narrative on a specific issue. Twisting the meaning of an editorial cartoon is not impossible, and a cartoonist can take the blame for it. When we are dealing with delicate topics, this can be quite stressful.

We live in extraordinary times

In the end, so much for "extraordinary times." We have been living in a constant state of emergency for the last, I don't know, 20 and more years. This hasn't fostered a healthy public debate, but quite the opposite: it has given real power to populist pseudo-politicians, and pushed media outlets to seek more "neutral" cartoons, to avoid polemics. "Have you got any doves cartoons? Keep 'em coming!!"

All the while, cartoonists sit there, at their tiny desks, and try to come up with something clever but thoughtful, touching but sharp, simple but complex.

And in the distance, a high-pitched whistle pierces the air, first feeble, and then louder and louder towards them, now almost unbearable, all-encompassing, definitely hypersonic.

Editorial: drawing a war

220228 Russia-UkraineCartoon by Tjeerd Royaards

The bigger the news, the bigger the response in public opinion tends to be; and few things gets a stronger response than the outbreak of a war. Although the overwhelming majority of people have denounced Russia's invasion of Ukraine, questioning the mental stability of Vladimir Putin and celebrating the unexpectedly tenacious defence of the Ukrainians in defense of their country, there have been other opinions as well.

These alternative opinions have come to us in the form of cartoons and in the form of comments on cartoons we've published (mainly on our social media channels). Some are valid and some are not. I'd like to share a few of them.

When there is war, there will be refugees. This isn't unexpected. What is unexpected, given Europe's track record when it comes to refugees, is that Ukrainians have been welcomed with open arms. While no one denies the dire need of Ukrainians fleeing from violence, this has lead to the question why people from for example Syria have not been treated with the same kindness. Could it have something to do with the fact that people from Ukraine look a lot like other Europeans?


CM90Cartoon by Zach


العنصرية ضد اللاجئين_0Cartoon by Ahmad Rahma


Another valid point that has been raised has been the amount of attention this war has received, especially in relation to the meager coverage of some other bloody conflicts, like the one in Yemen or in Tigray in Ethiopia. There have also been numerous cartoonists who have asked the question why the Molotov cocktail has become a symbol of liberty in the hands of a Ukrainian, while it is seen as a symbol of terrorism in the hands of a Palestinian?


03.03.2022 catoons copyCartoon by Mikail Çiftçi

09DC7461-220E-4B70-BC7A-521520C32E1DCartoon by Rafat Alkhatib


Whether you disagree with these points raised by cartoonists, or have good arguments to counter them, isn't really the point. The purpose of cartoons is not only to make you think, but also to make you think about aspects of the news you might not have considered before. In that sense, asking questions about Europe's newfound generosity when it comes to (blond-haired) refugees and the media frenzy surrounding the war are perfectly legitimate subjects for cartoons.

The third, and less valid, perspective on the Ukraine war has been mainly located in the comments we have got on the cartoons we published. The argument, in short, goes something like this: because we have not devoted enough attention to the violence of the US or other Western countries over the years, we are hypocrites and should not be allowed to say anything about Putin and his war.


FB screenshot

                                                      Screenshot from our Facebook page


I'll be the first to admit that Cartoon Movement probably has a Western bias. As a European-based, English-language platform it's hard not to. And though we are host to cartoonists from every corner of the globe and their multiple perspectives, our editorial line is largely determined by international news outlets and media such as the BCC, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Reuters, DW and CNN (to name a few). And in all honesty, we've probably under-reported on the Yemen war, the bloody conflict in Tigray and numerous other news events that were worthy of cartoons, but that we missed because of our Western outlook.

But it's also true that we have published many cartoons that do cover these topics, that question Western moral superiority, the violence of US foreign policy over the decades, the human rights offenses committed by the state of Israel and many, many other subjects.

But even if we had not published one single cartoon on any of these topics, the argument made by the commenters would still be invalid. Because to say that you cannot denounce one atrocity because haven't (sufficiently) denounced other atrocities is a false argument, only meant to silence a particular voice. And one thing cartoonists should not do, is remain silent in the face of war. We encourage you to call us out when we are under-reporting (or should I say 'under-cartooning') a certain issue, but we will never listen to demands to keep silent about Putin, because you feel we haven't sufficiently bashed Biden and his predecessors.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor

Editorial: cartoon controversy, banned books and banned satire

Political satire and Israel remains a complex issue for cartoonists and for editors alike. Following Human rights Watch, Amnesty International has labeled Israel's treatment of Palestinians apartheid. Obviously, this has been a topic our cartoonists have drawn about, and we put some of these cartoons together in a collection.

To promote the collection on our social media, we chose this cartoon by Emad Hajjaj, knowing it would probably lead to some sharp reactions:


And we weren't wrong. We have received numerous comments accusing the cartoon and us of antisemitism. We also received an official notification from Twitter that someone had lodged a complaint. However, after review, Twitter found no legitimate reason to remove the tweet.

Som was this cartoon too sharp? As an editor, I like the cartoons that step close to the line without crossing it. This cartoon clearly makes the link to the apartheid regime in South Africa. It has no mention or reference to the Holocaust (we try to avoid those), but it does target Jews as a people instead of the state of Israel. However, that's needed in this cartoon for the analogy to work. Our decision to run this cartoon was based on the severeness of the issue; it deserves razor-sharp satire. But we also know some people will disagree.

We find other cartoon-related news involving the Jewish people on the other side of the pond, where a school board in Tennessee banned the revered graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman because it contained too much nudity and violence. Michael Cavna of the Washington Post has collected some great responses by US cartoonists, which you can see here.

This week also saw the 1-year anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar. The people of Myanmar continue to fight for democracy and cartoonist continue to draw protest cartoons as well. One cartoonist is drawing anonymously on our platform under the name Robin Hood. Check out his work here.


Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor