This story was picked up by Xavier Bonilla, a well-known cartoonist for several media outlets in Ecuador. Using his pen name “Bonil”, he went on to publish a cartoon about the controversy in the national newspaper, El Universo.
After the first cartoon was published, Bonil and El Universo were given a notice by the Ecuadorian government to respond to a complaint regarding the cartoon. El Universo was told to provide “all information surrounding the cartoon” and Bonil was instructed to write an explanation of his actions concerning the cartoon. Both parties were to present their answers in court. El Universo was fined $93,000 and Bonil was ordered to create a “correction” of the cartoon.
Since the publication of the first cartoon, Bonil had been verbally attacked by President Correa and his regime thru many media outlets. In an attempt to destroy Bonil’s effectiveness and credibility, Correa personally accused Bonil of lying to the public. The president demanded Bonil provide proof to the police of his accusations of corruption. Correa went on to emphasize that he doesn’t have a problem with the cartoon but with the false information he provided in his cartoon.
On February 5th, Bonil published his “correction” cartoon where he shows Fernando Villavicencio welcoming the police into his home as the police raid his place.
WHAT IS CRNI DOING ABOUT IT?
By providing one of the only English language translations about Bonil and his newspaper’s continuing struggle against official censorship and press intimidation, CRNI has drawn attention to the growing threat against free speech in Ecuador.
By further reaching out to interview the cartoonist, CRNI has given Bonil the opportunity to personally explain that the information he used for the original cartoon was provided by reliable sources, and that, although slightly exaggerated for artistic effect, it dealt with actual events.
Such interviews with cartoonists under threat not only provide them the chance to defend themselves and their work, they also give CRNI the chance to discuss with our clients how to best respond to the threats against them.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
As of this writing Bonil has satisfied his requirement to explain himself, and El Universo had paid his fine. There are no further actions pending against him.
That said, personal emails and letters of support to the cartoonist, along with letters to his editor at El Universo commending them for standing behind Bonil, and to Ecuadorian President Correa expressing support for him and for the right of a free press in Ecuador, serve as valuable reminders to all involved that these kinds of repressive tactics will not go unnoticed, and are unacceptable violations of the basic human right to freedom of expression.