Ecuador issues sanctions for cartoon mocking congressman

On February 13, 2015, Ecuador’s media oversight commission, the Superintendency of Information and Communication (SUPERCOM), ordered the Guayaquil-based daily El Universo to publish an apology in connection with a cartoon drawn by Xavier Bonilla, a cartoonist known by his penname Bonil, which was published on August 5, 2014, according to news reports.

SUPERCOM also reprimanded Bonil for the cartoon, which poked fun at Agustín Delgado, a ruling party legislator who repeatedly stumbled while reading a speech before the National Assembly. Delgado, who was elected in 2013 with no previous political experience, is a former star member of Ecuador’s national soccer team and of African descent.

SUPERCOM said the newspaper and the cartoonist had violated articles in Ecuador’s 2013 media law that prohibit the publication of “discriminatory” content. The law has been deemed controversial by local journalists and press freedom groups.

El Universo was told to publish an apology within 72 hours, while Bonil was advised to “correct and improve” his work and to avoid further violations of the media law.

Delgado and President Rafael Correa called the cartoon racist, and several Afro-Ecuadoran organizations filed a complaint before SUPERCOM. Bonil denied the cartoon was racist and said the cartoon was an attempt to show how some members of the National Assembly did not appear to be well-qualified for their taxpayer-funded jobs as lawmakers.

The SUPERCOM decision was the second time the commission had sanctioned Bonil. In January 2014, SUPERCOM ordered Bonil to “correct” a cartoon depicting a government raid on the house of political activist and investigative journalist Fernando Villavicencio, who had repeatedly accused the Correa administration of corruption. On February 5, 2014, Bonil published a correction.