Just Speak! exhibition turns complex problems into cartoons

The Just Speak! cartoon exhibition opened on International Press Freedom Day and will run in The Hague – international city of peace and justice – until 20 May. Project Just Speak! challenged youth across the globe to make drawings that visualise the problems facing us all. Professional cartoonists turned the best ideas into editorial cartoons. Cartoonist Hossein Rezaei managed to flee Afghanistan and is involved in the project. ‘I draw on behalf of the people who have no voice and are being murdered in complete silence.’ 

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‘Stop war’, drawn by Ahmed Falah from Norway.

With the help of Dutch embassies, young people between the ages of 12 and 18 were challenged to think about day-to-day issues. Instead of writing about them, they were asked to draw the challenges and solutions. Cartoonists affiliated with the Cartoon Movement platform chose the best ideas and turned them into professional cartoons.

These cartoons are currently on display in The Hague and will travel around the world. Just Speak! is an initiative of Cartoon Movement in collaboration with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Municipality of The Hague. On 30 May, Hague Talks is organising a hybrid dialogue, as a follow-up to the exhibition, which will address subjects such as freedom of speech and challenges in reporting justice.

Cartoon Movement

Cartoon Movement – founded by Dutch cartoonist Tjeerd Royaards – is a platform for international political cartoons.

According to Tjeerd, the topics of the problems are the same all around the world. Topics that young people often draw about include acceptance and inequality. ‘It is a privilege to get an insight into what young people worry about in different parts of the world.’

The platform stimulates young people to think critically and challenges them to visualise these problems. ‘By doing so, we teach them that drawing is an effective tool for communication,’ says Tjeerd. Cartoons condense complex issues into an image that fits in a single frame. If done well, the image makes you think in a matter of seconds. Hopefully, this process will eventually contribute to a solution.

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Tjeerd Royaards at the opening of the Just Speak! exhibition in The Hague.


Hossein Rezaei is an Afghan cartoonist affiliated with Cartoon Movement. As the Taliban gained power in his country, he feared for his life. Hossein has worked on several international cartoon projects, making drawings on human rights, freedom of expression and the dangers of extremism. He could have been in great danger if the Taliban found out he was a political cartoonist, working for a European platform. ‘As a person, I prefer to stay invisible. People like me have better lives when people do not see us. I feel more comfortable not being seen.’

In addition, Hossein belongs to the Hazara minority, a group of people with a different religion, language and appearance than the majority of the Afghan people. ‘I draw on behalf of the people who have no voice and are being murdered in complete silence.’

After several failed attempts, he eventually managed to reach the airport with the help of the Dutch embassy and fled to the Netherlands. Hossein wants to continue working as a cartoonist despite all the risks. ‘I have a small tablet that I make my drawings on almost every day. Since I do not speak the Dutch language yet, I draw. Drawing does not have a language.’ 

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Hossein Rezaye talking about the importance of a free press.

Press Freedom

The Netherlands supports free and independent journalism. Journalists help us to make sense of facts, rumours and figures. They risk their lives reporting on what is happening around the globe.

We believe journalists should be able to report without fear because reliable information is essential to understand the world we live in. Restricting the freedom of journalists equals restricting our access to information and our ability to make well-informed decisions.

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'The punishment', drawn by MORO from Cuba.

On 3 May, World Press Freedom Day reminds governments all over the world of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom. On this day, we confirm our support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. We also remember journalists who lost their lives in pursuit of the truth.