Day of the Imprisoned Writer
Ramón Esono Ebalé - Cartoonist and activist
Ramón Esono Ebalé, alias Jamón y Queso, is an award-winning cartoonist and activist, who, in addition to running his satirical blog, has published a graphic novel, La pesadilla de Obi (Obi’s nightmare). Esono Ebalé is a well-known critic of President Obiang and his government and uses his drawings to highlight the large levels of inequality in Equatorial Guinea. On 16 September 2017, he was arrested in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea. While initially questioned by security agents in relation to his cartoons that are critical of President Obiang and other government officials, news outlets reported a few days later that Ebalé is being investigated for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting money. He was presented before a judge on 20 September where he was asked about these allegations and was subsequently sent to Black Beach prison in Malabo where he is being held in preventive judicial detention while further investigations are conducted. Esono Ebalé appeared in court on 3 October and gave a statement before a judge, but according to PEN’s information, he has yet to be formally charged with an offence.
PEN International is extremely concerned over his apparent arbitrary detention in relation to his activism and work, in violation of his right to freedom of expression, and calls on the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.
Take Action – Share on Twitter, Facebook and other social media
Please send appeals:
- Expressing concern at the continued apparent arbitrary detention of Ramón Esono Ebalé and urging them to drop their investigation and immediately and unconditionally release him;
- Reminding them of their duty to respect the right to freedom of expression, as enshrined in the Constitution of Equatorial Guinea and as per article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Equatorial Guinea is a state party.
President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea
Mr. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Avenida de la Libertad Malabo
Salutation: His Excellency
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Equatorial Guinea in your country if possible. A list of embassies can be found here.
PEN members are encouraged to:
- Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting Ramón Esono Ebalé’s case;
- Organise public events, stage readings, press conferences or demonstrations;
- Share information about Ramón Esono Ebalé and your campaigning activities for him via social media
Social Media: Please use the hashtag #ImprisonedWriter and #FreeNseRamon
Consider adopting Ramón Esono Ebalé as an Honorary Member of your Centre. Details of how to campaign for honorary members may be found in the Writers in Prison Committee Handbook, available here.
You can send a message of support to Ramón Esono Ebalé to email@example.com or to PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK. Messages in Spanish are particularly suitable.
Born in 1977, Ramón Esono Ebalé is an award-winning cartoonist and activist from Equatorial Guinea who first started exhibiting his work in the mid-2000s. He is a well-known critic of President Obiang and his government and uses his drawings to highlight the large levels of inequality in Equatorial Guinea and the human rights violations committed by the state. His satirical blog Las Locuras de Jamón y Queso criticised and often lewdly caricatured the President, and other government officials, and was blocked by the authorities in Equatorial Guinea. He continued to share his cartoons on social media. In 2014, he published a graphic novel, La pesadilla de Obi (Obi’s nightmare), for which he contributed the drawings. The novel depicts the president as a normal citizen, experiencing the injustices of his own regime.
In 2007, in response to exhibit organisers asking him to rewrite text for one of his cartoons, he left the speech balloons empty. Several of his subsequent pieces also employed the same blank speech bubbles. He received death threats on social media for one of the last works he completed when he was living in Malabo, Dictadores, a cartoon about elections in Equatorial Guinea.
Esono Ebalé moved to Paraguay in 2011 and, at the time of his arrest, had recently returned to Equatorial Guinea in order to apply for a new passport, so that he could join his wife in El Salvador where she had moved. After spending several weeks in the country waiting for his passport, he was arrested on 16 September 2017 while out for dinner with two friends of Spanish nationality. All three were detained and questioned at the Central Police station, but the Spanish nationals were released after a few hours. According to reports, the police asked Esono Ebalé questions about his drawings of the president and other high-ranking officials, as well as regarding his political leanings. He was told his drawings were offensive to the president and that his blog had text that was insulting and defamatory. He was also told that people should only participate in politics if they are associated with a political party.
While originally only questioned upon his arrest about his drawings and blog, he was presented before a judge on 20 September and told he was being investigated for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting money, in what appear to be trumped up charges. Esono Ebale has denied these allegations. His family and friends believe these accusations are part of a strategy to discredit him, according to reports. No charges have yet been brought and he is currently being detained in Black Beach jail.
The space for dissent in Equatorial Guinea is highly restricted and various human rights organisations have documented the routine harassment of human rights defenders, as well as a more recent clampdown on artists and cultural groups, including an incident in July 2017 when an artist was detained for a song he had released in support of taxi drivers protesting an increase in licensing fees.
Please let us know about your activities and send us a report about them by 15 December 2017 so that we can share them with other Centres.
For further information, please contact Lianna Merner at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK, Tel.: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org