Yesterday, we briefly reported on the case of Ecuadorian political cartoonist Xavier Bonilla, who ran afoul of the government’s Superintendency of Information and Communication (SUPERCOM) over a cartoon critical of president Rafael Correa. The cartoon showed police hauling away items from the home of journalist Fernando Villavicencio following a raid, and the caption identified the confiscated material as denunciations of Correa’s corruption. SUPERCOM ordered the newspaper that carried the cartoon, El Universo, to pay a hefty fine (2% of their revenues from the past three months) and to print a “correction.”
What could possibly go wrong with that plan?
This time, Bonilla’s cartoon shows Villavicencio inviting authorities into his home, inviting them to take everything they want, and blaming them for being too courteous.
“Call your lawyer,” one of the policemen tells him in a frame, to which Villavicencio responds: “Don’t worry, I trust all of you.”
Clearly Bonilla is mocking the government sanction, although his editors probably aren’t laughing: The newspaper has paid the fine (which amounted to $93,000), although it is appealing.
SUPERCOM’s complaint against the cartoon is that it violates an Ecuadorian law that prohibits newspapers from taking an “institutional position” on an open legal case. Meanwhile, the head of SUPERCOM complained that Bonilla’s assertion that the confiscated materials were evidence of corruption was an opinion rather than fact, which suggests a lack of understanding of what editorial cartoons are. This raises the question of whether the government is treating cartoonists as journalists; given that the official accused Bonilla of a “deliberate act of disinformation,” it seems that they are.