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Ecuadorian cartoonist keeps his sense of humor despite government fine

Quito daily ordered to correct satirical drawing which angered President Correa

The two cartoon panels drawn by Xavier Bonilla, better known as 'Bonil,' from 'El Universo.' Click for full image.
The two cartoon panels drawn by Xavier Bonilla, better known as 'Bonil,' from 'El Universo.' Click for full image.EFE

A newspaper cartoonist in Ecuador agreed to correct a sketch he drew after he was fined by a court under the country’s new media law. But in so doing, Xavier “Bonil” Bonilla demonstrated to his readers that he hadn’t lost his sense of humor.

Bonil had originally drawn a cartoon for the Quito daily El Universo, showing government security forces raiding the house of opposition journalist and legislative aide Fernando Villavicencio, and taking away his computers. It contained the caption: “The government is taking away evidence of public corruption.”

The sketch drew the ire of President Rafael Correa, who accused Villavicencio of hacking the presidency’s email account.

On Wednesday, the deadline day that the Superintendent of Communication gave the cartoonist to correct his sketch, Bonil drew another version of the raid at Villavicencio’s house. This time he shows smiling government security forces showing up at the journalist’s home, carrying a bouquet of flowers and Villavicencio giving them a hearty welcome.

“Call your lawyer,” says one smiling officer to Villavicencio in one frame. “Don’t worry, I trust all of you,” he responds.

The caption on the bottom this time only stated that the police hauled away the journalist’s tablets, computers and cellphones.

“I was enlightened by the truth, and thankfully I was able to see that the raid was carried out will all legal precepts; there was cordiality and a friendly spirit, and it was under those terms that I created my new cartoon,” Bonil told EL PAÍS.

On Tuesday, El Universo paid a fine to the superintendent’s office which, under Ecuadorian media law, is equivalent to two percent of the newspaper’s revenue from the previous quarter. The newspaper and the superintendent’s office declined to reveal the actual amount paid.

But Pedro Valverde, a representative of El Universo, said they would appeal the decision. “It is a fine that has to be complied with no matter whether the case will be appealed, and that is one of the reasons why this law is unconstitutional,” he told EL PAÍS.

Some 60 people, including journalists, actors and politicians, have signed a petition demanding that the media law, passed last year after President Correa had come in for heavy criticism in El Universo, be revoked by the nation’s Constitutional Court. The case was admitted on January 23 after a four-month waiting period.

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