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Cartoonist publishes correction as part of Ecuador’s first sanction under controversial communications law

Political cartoon from Xavier Bonilla published on Feb. 5 in Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo "Rectification" in response to an order from the country's Information and Communication Superintendence.

The Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo published a correction to a cartoon by journalist Xavier Bonilla “Bonil” on Feb. 5, ordered by the country’s Superintendent of Information and Communication due to what they considered a violation of the country's controversial Organic Law on Communications.

The correction was ordered after El Universo published on Dec. 28 a cartoon by Bonilla that depicted police searching the house of journalist and activist Fernando Villavicencio, allegedly looking for evidence of espionage in the early morning of the previous day. The cartoon resulted in Bonilla being summoned by the Superintendent, created by Ecuador's communications law to supervised media contents.

Although Bonilla published a seven-page document defending the cartoon and his freedom of expression, on Jan. 31 the Superintendent ordered the cartoonist to write a rectification within a 72-hour span, saying that “the statements made by (the cartoon's) content does not correspond to the reality of the facts and stigmatizes the actions of the State’s Attorney General and Judicial Police.”

The new cartoon, titled “Rectification,” replaces the aggressive and armed police officers depicted in the first cartoon with a friendlier group of agents carrying flowers who still end up taking Villavicencio’s electronic possessions. The cartoon ran with the caption “Police and prosecutors search Villavicencio’s home and confiscate his tablets, computers and cell phones.”

Bonilla told AFP he was done with the case with this new cartoon since he had done everything the Superintendent had asked of him on Friday, according to El Comercio.

Superintendent of Information and Communication Carlos Ochoa told Estado EcuadorTV he thought it was “excellent” that the cartoonist had followed the law and that his correction was “part of the job with cartoons… To find one way or another of expressing in other language what happened,” reported El Universo.

Aside from the correction, the Superintendent imposed a fine on El Universal equivalent to two percent of their last quarter’s sales. The newspaper rejected this resolution on Saturday, Feb. 1, saying it damaged freedom of expression.


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