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Cartoonist publishes "corrected" version of political cartoon in Ecuador

On February 5th, 2014, the cartoonist Xavier Bonilla "Bonil" published a "correction" of his cartoon entitled "Regale la Navidad” (Give a present for Christmas) that on January 31st, was sanctioned by the Superintendence of Information and Communication (SUPERCOM).

That entity determined that the text published along with the cartoon last December 28 2013, by daily El Universo would also have to be "corrected" and gave them 72 hours to do it. The paper was also fined the equivalent of 2% of its last three months averaged income.

El Universo transferred about $90,000 to the SUPERCOM accounts for the fine imposed for not preventing the publication of the cartoon.

The new version of the cartoon, in which the cartoonist depicted the search and seizure of computers from the home of journalist and activist Fernando Villavicencio, consisted in the replacement of another sequence that describes the entrance of the police and prosecutors into Villavicencio's home, but in a polite way, which contrasts with the original that showed a violent interruption, in illustration of the public allegations made by Villavicencio.

Also, the caption accompanying the original cartoon was replaced by the following: "Police and prosecutors broke through Villavicencio's home and confiscated their tablets, computers, cell phones".

The original cartoon was posted with the following caption: "Police and Prosecutors enter Fernando Villavicencio's home and take documentation about allegations of corruption”. For this text, President Rafael Correa, during the Program No. 355 of his Saturdays Enlace Ciudadano on January 4th, threatened to apply the Communications Law against Bonilla and also insulted him as “sicario de tinta” (ink murderer), and “sick”. After this ,on Monday January 6th, the Superintendent of Information and Communication requested copies of the newspaper El Universo and the cartoon, as well as "the identity of the author" of the same information to be delivered within 72 hours.

The Supercom had resolved that the correction should appear "with the same features, dimensions, in the same space and section (...) because the statement made in its content does not correspond to hard facts and the action stigmatizes both the Attorney General and the Judicial Police. "

In previous statements to Fundamedios, Ramiro Garcia, the cartoonist's attorney, said that there has been an "unconstitutional prosecution" as "the same entity that brought forward the accusation is also resolving the case, and this breaks the principle of impartiality". He said he will appeal the decision.

Once the new cartoon was published, and the payment of the fine was made, the Superintendent of Information and Communication said, in an interview for the state's TV channel Ecuador TV, that it was "excellent" that Bonil and El Universo complied with the law".

It is good to remember that the main international bodies for the protection of freedom of expression have indicated that the Ecuadorian Communications Law, in force since June 2013 - is a law which violates the basic principles that protect this fundamental human right and is being appealed at the Constitutional Court in a suit brought by more than 60 people involved in communication, arts and Ecuadorian literature.

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