New York, October 6, 2017--Authorities in Equatorial Guinea should immediately release cartoonist and blogger Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé, whom they have held without charge for weeks, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Ebalé, who is known by the pen name Jamón y Queso, was arrested with two friends on September 16, 2017, around 7:00 pm by three men who identified themselves as security personnel, according to a written account in Spanish provided to CPJ by one of the friends arrested with Ebalé. The friends, who are both Spanish nationals, were quickly released.
Ebalé's drawings and his blog feature critical commentary on President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and the Equatoguinean government, and have been blocked by authorities, according to media reports and Tutu Alicante, executive director of EG Justice, a U.S.-based organization advocating for human rights in Equatorial Guinea. The blog, LocosTV, was founded in 2011 and originally published under the title Las locuras de Jamón y Queso.
"It is outrageous that Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé should be snatched off the streets of Equatorial Guinea and jailed for weeks just because he writes or draws critically about the country's top public figure," said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal. "We call on authorities to release him immediately."
Ebalé and his friends were stopped, handcuffed, and had their mobile phones seized while getting into Ebalé's sister's car after leaving a restaurant in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, according to the friend's account and media reports. The men took them to the police station where police interrogated Ebalé about his work as a cartoonist, specifically his online drawings of Obiang, said the friend.
Police told Ebalé's friends that he was the target of their arrest and that he needed to make a statement explaining his drawings and blog posts about the Equatoguinean leadership, according to the friend's account.
Ebalé is accused of money laundering and counterfeiting, allegations that he denies, Alicante told CPJ.
Ebalé appeared in court October 3 and gave a statement before a judge, after which he was taken back to prison, Alicante told CPJ in an email.
Having lived outside of Equatorial Guinea for years, Ebalé had returned to apply for a passport so that he could join his wife and one of his children in El Salvador, Alicante told CPJ.