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 this cartoon about the controversy in the national newspaper, El Universo. After it was published, political cartoonist Bonil and El Universo were given a notice by the Ecuadorean government to respond to a complaint regarding the cartoon. El Universo was asked to provide all information surrounding the cartoon and Bonil was asked to write an explanation for his actions then present these answers in court.
Since the publication of his cartoon, Bonil has been verbally attacked by President Correa and his regime by many media outlets. Correa has personally accused him of lying to the public in an attempt to destroy Correa’s image, and demanded Bonil provide proof to the police for such accusations of corruption. Correa went on to emphasize that he doesn’t have a problem with the cartoon or cartoonist, but with the “false” information provided in the cartoon.
Bonil now becomes one of the first artists to go to court as a result of the restrictive new “Ley Organica de Comunicacion” communications law passed by the National Assembly on June 14, 2013. The law was a huge victory for Correa, giving him more power over press and media. He advocated the law by arguing that it would bring “good press” in Ecuador. However, many critics say it has been a tremendous setback for freedom of expression in Ecuador.
In a personal interview with CRNI director Dr. Robert Russell Bonil defended his case, explaining that all the information he used was from reliable sources and that although slightly exaggerated for comic effect, it deals with something that actually happened. As one of the most respected cartoonists in the country, his case has left many other Ecuadorian journalists and cartoonists worried.
Under the “Ley Organica de Comunicacion”, Correa is asking media outlets to “respect the reputation and honor” of public figures, which many see as a way for his government to filter out any opinion critical of public officials. Many cartoonists and journalists are now publishing their own work through the internet and social media, without having to seek approval from editors and publishers. Evidence suggests that Correa is using the new law to restrict this independent exercise of free expression. With all this happening, Bonil emphasized that things will likely only get worse if President Correa continues to control what can be said about him and his regime.
This Spanish-language video is of news coverage about the controversy:
In this Spanish-language video, Bonil explains his approach to political cartooning: