Equatorial Guinea: Release detained cartoonist Ramón Esono Ebalé

PEN International is extremely concerned over the detention of cartoonist Ramón Esono Ebalé, alias Jamon y Queso, who was arrested on 16 September in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea. He was initially questioned by security agents in relation to his cartoons that are critical of President Obiang and other government officials. News outlets reported a few days later that he is being investigated for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting money. He was presented before a judge on 20 September where he was asked about these allegations. He was subsequently sent to Black Beach prison in Malabo where he is being held in preventive detention while further investigations are conducted. He has yet to be charged with an offence.

PEN International believes that Esono Ebalé is being arbitrarily detained in relation to his activism and work, in violation of his right to freedom of expression, and calls on the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.

Image provided by EG Justice.
Illustration originally drawn by Ramón Esono Ebalé

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Please send appeals calling on the authorities of Equatorial Guinea to:

–          Immediately and unconditionally release Ramón Esono Ebalé

–          Respect the right to freedom of expression, as enshrined in the Constitution of Equatorial Guinea and as per article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Equatorial Guinea is a state party

Write to:
President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea
Mr. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Palacio Presidencial
Avenida de la Libertad Malabo
Equatorial Guinea
Salutation: His Excellency

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Equatorial Guinea in your country if possible. A list of embassies can be found here.

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 20 October 2017. ***

Suggested tweet: #Equatorial Guinea: Release detained cartoonist Ramón Esono Ebalé #FreeNseRamon

Please keep us informed of any action you take, including any responses you receive from the authorities.

Born in 1977, Ramon Esono Ebalé is a cartoonist and activist from Equatorial Guinea who has won several awards for his work. He is a well-known critic of President Obiang and his government and uses his drawings to highlight the large levels of inequality in Equatorial Guinea and the human rights violations committed by the state.

His satirical blog Las Locuras de Jamón y Queso criticised and caricatured the President and other government officials and was blocked by the authorities in Equatorial Guinea. In 2014 he published a graphic novel, La pesadilla de Obi (Obi’s nightmare), for which he contributed the drawings. The novel depicts the president as a normal citizen, experiencing the injustices of his own regime.

Esono Ebalé moved to Paraguay in 2011 and at the time of his arrest, had recently returned to Equatorial Guinea in order to apply for a new passport.. After several weeks in the country waiting for his passport, he was arrested on 16 September while out for dinner with two friends of Spanish nationality. All three were detained and questioned at the Central Police station, but the Spanish nationals were released after a few hours. According to reports, the police asked Esono Ebalé questions about his drawings of the President and other high-ranking officials and his political leanings. He was told his drawings were offensive to the President and that his blog had text that was insulting and defamatory. He was also told that people should only participate in politics if they are associated with a political party.

While originally questioned upon his arrest about his drawings and blog, he was presented before a judge on 20 September and told he was being investigated for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting money, in what appear to be trumped up charges. His family and friends believe these accusations are part of a strategy to discredit him, according to reports. No charges have yet been brought and he is currently being detained in Black Beach jail.

The space for dissent in Equatorial Guinea is highly restricted and various human rights organisations have documented the routine harassment of human rights defenders, as well as a more recent clampdown on artists and cultural groups, including an incident in July 2017 when an artist was detained for a song he had released in support of taxi drivers protesting an increase in licensing fees.

For further details contact Lianna Merner, PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: lianna.merner [at] pen-international [dot] org

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