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

Thiago Lucas launches 'Itinerant Cartoon'

We are supporting a new project by Brazilian cartoonist and CM member Thiago Lucas. The aim of the Itinerant Cartoon is to show the importance of political cartoons through a series of exhibitions in public and private schools, colleges and universities.



The exhibition includes several cartoons that have a QR code, which shows the viewer an animated version of the cartoon:

Charge Itinerante_Promessa dos políticos_Por Thiago Lucas

Charge Itinerante_Desigualdade Social_Por Thiago Lucas

Charge Itinerante_Mulher_Por Thiago Lucas

Summer break

Summer-in-EuropeCartoon by Thiago Lucas

Cartoon Movement is on summer break in August. That means we’ll not be publishing any editor’s choices and we’ll be less active on our social media channels. We’ll be back on August 30th with cartoons, comics and new projects!

Exhibition: Framing the War

On July 14, our exhibition Framing the War was opened in the Sound and Vision media museum in The Hague by the director of Sound and Vision and the mayor of  The Hague. Framing the War shows 100 days of war in Ukraine with about 125 photos of the Dutch press agency ANP and 75 international cartoons from Cartoon Movement.

In the photos posted below, we'll try to give you an impression of the exhibition, but we highly recommend that, if you're in the area, you go see the exhibition for yourself. It will be on display until September 4. More information here.









Photos by Cartoon Movement and by Rob Hogeslag.