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

Editorial: our position on anti-vax cartoons

Cartoons reflect the public debate; an international community of cartoonists will therefore frequently reflect the different perspectives that are present in the global public debate, including the more extreme ones. In some cases, we will try to present and publish these varying perspectives. In other cases, we will make the editorial choice to focus on one perspective, ignoring others.

On such example is the genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar in 2017. While the overwhelming majority of our cartoonists chose to call out the atrocities committed by the Myanmar army, our contingent of cartoonists from Myanmar defended their government and army, stating that the accusations of genocide were fake news. In light of the evidence, we chose not to highlight these perspectives. That doesn’t mean these cartoons are censored; it simply means we will not publish them on our homepage or post them on our social media channels.


Fake__aung_thein_htike__athCartoon by Aung Thein Htike ATH from 2017, with the perspective that the suffering of the Royangya was fake news.

We have made the same editorial decision for cartoons that speak out against vaccination. In light of the evidence about the effectiveness of the vaccination, we will not publish cartoons that ignore this evidence and feed into the various conspiracy theories out there about the supposedly nefarious intentions of researchers and governments alike. We do show a couple of them here, to illustrate our decision. If you want to see how most cartoonists think about the vaccine and the anti-vax movement, check our collections here and here.


Vaccinescreamvaccine_pete_kreiner Cartoon by Pete Kreiner


FauciA portrait of Anthony Fauci, by Elchicotriste

With all editorial decisions, there will be grey areas. Not publishing anti-vax cartoons is a clear-cut decision, but what about cartoons about the position and rights of the unvaccinated in society? For instance, Swaha takes a more nuanced approach with her cartoon questioning the French Covid passport as a way to return to a free society.

A citizen in a free society is only free to the extent that his or her freedom doesn't harm the freedom of others; the problem with unvaccinated is that they consciously make a decision that is potentially harmful for the rest of society. On the other hand, one could argue that no state should have the power to coerce people to inject something into their body, and that granting privileges to one group over the other is coercion of a sort.


CM_21Cartoon by Swaha

We will not change our editorial stance on the anti-vax movement (barring new scientific evidence), but we will closely be looking at the way societies and governments deal with the unvaccinated, and the cartoons that are made about this.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor


P.S. This editorial has been edited slightly on August 9 after receiving feedback from SWAHA, to better reflect the intention of her cartoon.

Editorial: protests in Cuba

A new feature on this blog will be a weekly editorial, highlighting the most interesting cartoons and cartoon-related news of the week. I aim to publish an editorial every Friday. Since we have just gotten back from summer break, this first one is published today.

We might have taken a summer break, but the news certainly hasn’t. Looking through our newsroom is always an interesting way to catch up with what happened in the world, and the first thing I noticed were the many cartoons that deal with the protests in Cuba. When cartoonists draw about protests, they usually support the protesters and denouncing police brutality. But here, we can see two distinct positions taken by cartoons.

These three cartoons, by Arcadio Esquivel, Spanish cartoonist Elchicotriste and Elihu Duayer from Brazil clearly take the position that the Cuban people have taken to the streets with a legitimate call for freedom.


Nada en Cuba  ENGCartoon by Arcadio Esquivel.


PrisãocubaCartoon by Elihu Duayer.


CUBACartoon by Elchicotriste.

The Cuban government has defended their crackdown on the protesters by saying the protests were instigated by the United States. Cuban cartoonists Yoemnis DelToro and OSVAL agree with this, and they get support from abroad, for example from Mexican cartoonist Antonio Rodriguez.

Yoe web (4)Cartoon by Yoemnis DelToro.

Selfie en miamiCartoon by OSVAL.


Cuba libreCartoon by Antonio Rodriguez.

As for my opinion, I think blaming a foreign influence is a tactic frequently employed by dictatorships (although I also think the Rodriguez cartoon eloquently highlights the hypocrisy of American freedom). And it is interesting to see how a large part of our Cuban cartoonists has remained silent on the subject (except for a generic statement like this), probably because they know they risk arrest if they come out an support the protests with their cartoons.

That’s it for this first editorial. If you have any suggestions or comments, leave them in the comment section below or send an email. For other news, check out our latest newsletter that came out today.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor