Three men who identified themselves as security personnel arrested Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé, known by the pen name Jamón y Queso, and two of his friends on September 16, 2017, around 7:00 p.m., according to a written account in Spanish provided to CPJ by one of the friends arrested with Ebalé, who asked not to be named for privacy reasons.
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.
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. Three men took them to the police station where the 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, against which he maintains his innocence, Alicante told CPJ.
The journalist appeared in court October 3, 2017, and gave a statement before a judge, after which he was taken back to prison, Alicante told CPJ in an email.
Ebalé lived abroad for many years, and returned to his native Equatorial Guinea to apply for a passport so he could join his wife and one of his children in El Salvador, Alicante told CPJ.