Cartoon Movement and Takoua Ben Mohamed Win Journalism Prizes

The Cartoon Movement has won Belgium’s Evens Journalism Prize 2019 from the Evens Foundation. While graphic journalist Takoua Ben Mohamed has received the Encouragement Prize. The prizes is awarded every two years to journalists or organisations whose work contributes highly to making Europe more comprehensive and accessible to a broad audience.

The jury reported on the Cartoon Movement:

The jury reason for this year’s main prize resides in the capability of Cartoon Movement to develop a distinctive and remarkable journalistic format with a high potential for a far-reaching impact in an era where global collaborations are producing the most ground-breaking outcomes. The cooperation facilitated by this platform, allows a broad perspective on multiple pressing issues, besides an exceptional reporting quality. Diversity is guaranteed by the multitude of nationalities represented by their contributors but also by the variety of approaches and styles. Cartoon Movement supports the creation of new independent voices while stressing the importance of democratic values and ethics in the field of journalism. It knowledgeably promotes the use of humour to highlight the contradictions underlying current social concerns. Furthermore, the adoption of cartoons produces a democratising effect that makes news display immediate and accessible, irrespective of language boundaries. Thanks to these distinguishing features, Cartoon Movement positively responds to the Evens Foundation’s objective to award a laureate who could make Europe more comprehensible to a vast audience.

Cartoon Movement is a community of international editorial cartoonists and fans of political satire that offers a global online platform for editorial cartoons and comics journalism. Based in the Netherlands, Cartoon Movement receives between 60 and 100 cartoons each day from over 220 freelance cartoonists in over 80 countries. Submitted works are often purchased by corporate media publications. Cartoon Movement began in 2010 when VJ Movement founders Thomas Loudon and Arend Jan van den Beld began working with editorial cartoonist Tjeerd Royaards to promote the political cartoon as a fundamental style of journalism and to support freedom of the press and the rights of editorial cartoonists. The network of editorial cartoonists who contribute to the platform is unique and unparalleled in the world.

The Cartoon Movement Wins the Evens Journalism Prize 2019As to the Takoua Ben Mohamed, the jury reported;

The encouragement prize goes to Takoua Ben Mohamed who focuses on the depiction of Muslim women’s everyday life, successfully voicing a rather disregarded group in conventional media portrayals. Her work is a prime example of how humour can be used to confront stereotypes, to promote empathy and to raise awareness. She creates canny connections between narrative and tangible social issues, urging the audience to reflect on the absurdity inherent to the mechanisms of discrimination and marginalisation. By encouraging her work and by fostering her approach, the Evens Foundation wishes to embrace new perspectives and to boost diversification in the field of media.

Born in Tunisia in 1991, Takoua Ben Mohamed grew up in Rome where she moved in 1999. At the age of 14, after being long engaged with youth activism and cultural and humanitarian associations, she became the founder of Intercultural Comics Blog. She graduated at Nemo Academy for Digital Arts in Florence and later studied journalism in Rome. She is the author of Woman story, Sotto il Velo and La Rivoluzione dei Gelsomini. Takoua Ben Mohamed regularly works with national and international media platforms; she also collaborates with universities, schools, associations giving lectures and workshops and organising exhibitions in galleries and museums.

Cartoon Movement’s editor-in-chief Tjeerd Royaards held a speech at the Difference Day gala dinner on 2 May 2019 at BOZAR–Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels. Here is a transcript of the acceptance speech.

Cartoon Movement and Takoua Ben Mohamed Win Evens Journalism and Encouragement Prizes 2019
Terrorist Competiton cartoon by Fares Garabet, represented by The Cartoon Movement

Good evening,

It is a true honor for me to be here tonight, to accept the Evens Journalism Prize for 2019 on behalf of Cartoon Movement. And it feels like an award not so much for Cartoon Movement, but more an award for the cartoonists that make up our community, and who share their perspectives on the world via our platform each day.

On their behalf, I would like to extend my thanks to the Evens Foundation and to the distinguished jury for this recognition and appreciation of our work.

This award means a lot to me for two reasons.

First, it’s very special because this is a journalism award. Ever since the inception of Cartoon Movement in 2010, our basic guiding principle has been that editorial cartoons are a form of journalism, and an important form at that.

Cartoonists are not always seen that way. Obviously they do not meet the journalistic requirement of objectivity. But besides that obvious point, the fact that we make our journalism by basically drawing funny pictures means that cartoonists are not always considered to be serious media professionals. Add to this the fact that cartoonists often work alone at home or in their studio, and not in a newsroom with their journalistic colleagues, and we can see why they are something of a special breed.

And although I agree that we cartoonists are somewhat of a special category, I also very much belief that editorial cartoonists are journalists. Because I believe that what we do is fundamental to journalism. For me, journalism is about pointing out the wrongs of society, about exposing corruption and power abuse, and about keeping a check on power by letting those in power know they are being watched. It’s about making people think about important issues by providing them with different perspectives. And its about ensuring a thriving public debate.

All these goals cartoons accomplish. And in doing so, cartoonists adhere to most of the principles that other journalists use. Excluding the aforementioned objectivity, which Cartoon Movement has sought to circumvent by presenting a multitude of clearly subjective perspectives.

But we try to get the facts we base a cartoon on straight just like ‘normal’ journalists. And we have a strong ethical framework. This is especially important when making satire. Who do we mock and why do we make fun of them? The guiding principle being that satire should punch up, attack those in power, and not down towards the weak and powerless.

So Cartoon Movement has always strived to be a journalistic platform and to be recognized and honored as such is amazing!

The second reason this award is so important to me is because it recognizes the importance and impact that cartoons have.

The image you see on the screens, with a cartoonist’s finger on the trigger, which is shaped like a pencil, was chosen to illustrate this point. Cartoons have impact because they can make their point immediately, within one to three seconds. This is especially true for cartoons that are wordless, which are the ones we often publish on Cartoon Movement. A good cartoon evokes an immediate emotional response: laughter, shock, anger, sadness. This is what makes visuals so powerful. It turns the pencil that cartoonists wield into a weapon. A weapon that is, if you will forgive me the cliche, mightier than the sword.

And the pencil is also seen this way – as a weapon – by those who do not appreciate satire, most often because they fear it will undermine their power. Dictators and extremists alike fear cartoons. They fear their power to open people’s minds to new perspectives, and to make people think beyond the dogmas those in power have instilled in them.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo in 2015 is a testimony to this, but it is not the only one. The Press Freedom Index has shown for the last years that press freedom is in decline. And cartoonists are always among the first to fall victim to declining liberty, by censorship, harassment, arrest or worse.

This week, Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart was sent back to jail for one year and 16 days. Although his conviction was for another supposed crime, many believe, as do I, that the true reason for his incarceration is his critical pencil. We all know Mr. Erdogan isn’t too fond of criticism.

And across the ocean, in Nicaragua, cartoonist Pedro X. Molina is in hiding as he continues to expose the wrongdoings of the regime of Daniel Ortega. At the end of last year, the newsroom of the Nicaraguan paper Confidential, was raided and destroyed by government troops, but Pedro and his colleagues refuse to give up.

It is these people we want to support at Cartoon Movement; to give them and other cartoonists a voice so they can continue to have an impact.

And on this eve of World Press Freedom Day, it is to them that I would like to dedicate this award. To all those cartoonists around the world that are in danger because of what they do, but continue to do it regardless. Because they believe that what they do matters.

Thank you.

The Evans Foundation aims to identify and support innovative ideas and award achievements through prizes and calls and foster experimental projects that bridge the gap between research and practice and facilitate knowledge exchange through lectures, seminars, debates and publications. They collaborate with what they describe as an ever-expanding network of citizens, practitioners, researchers, NGOs, academic and cultural institutions connecting different communities and perspectives across the continent and beyond.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.