14 February 2015

IAPA calls legal action against Ecuadorean cartoonist ‘inquisition-style censorship’

MIAMI, Florida (February 14, 2015)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today described as “inquisition-style censorship” legal action by the government of President Rafael Correa in Ecuador against a cartoonist whom it periodically reprimands and orders him to apologize for his work and for expressing himself satirically about national politics. Xavier Bonilla, a cartoonist with the nickname Bonil whose work appears in the Guayaquil newspaper El Universo, was required this week to appear before the Communication Superintendence (Supercom), a government agency, whose role is to implement the Communication Law. The IAPA regards this law, designed to shield the government from criticism, complaints and adverse opinions, as one of the worst in the world. IAPA President Gustavo Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, said that the censorship of Bonil and El Universo over a satirical cartoon of a popular lawmaker, demonstrates the illegitimacy and unconstitutionality of a law that has merely served “to protect the government and gag the media and freedom of expression.” He added that this is a “made-to-measure suit, a kind of armor plate just like the laws on insult and contempt which up until recently teemed in Latin American politics, very comfortable for those monarchic figures who wielded exceptional authoritative privileges over their fellow citizens.” Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, criticized Supercom for being an agency that openly depends on the mood of President Correa. “If in his ‘Saturday hookups’ Correa criticizes a journalist, as he did concerning Bonil, this agency consequently takes action, implementing a series of disciplinary measures and fines so as to ingratiate itself with the president.” “It is clearly,” added the editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, “a political body, thus discredited, which no longer surprises us with this kind of inquisition-style censorship like the one taken against Bonil.” Bonil was “sentenced” by Supercom for having criticized a Black member of Congress ­ – popular former soccer player “Tin” Delgado – for not having pronounced properly a speech read to his fellow Congressmen. The cartoonist and El Universo were first reprimanded for having made fun of his socio-economic level, but after the public apologies required for the two Supercom then reprimanded them for racial discrimination and called for more apologies, this time to members of groups of African descent. The Supercom reprimand of Bonil “warned him of the obligation to correct and improve his actions for the full and effective exercise of the rights to communicate, and required him to abstain from repeating the acts that are at odds with the Organic Communication Law.” Mohme and Paolillo said that “it is as if the Communication Law and Supercom are demonstrating that they are only destined to censor and generate self-censorship.” Previously, over another Bonil cartoon that upset Correa, Supercom fined El Universo $100,000. In a recent IAPA webinar given by Bonil, in connection with the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the participants criticized Correa for being one of the few presidents that did not condemn the murder of French cartoonists and journalists and for not defending cartoons as an artistic and journalistic means of expression. The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.