Cartoonist and activist Ramón Esono Ebalé (pen name Jamón y Queso) was arrested on 16 September 2017 and is currently being detained without formal charges in Equatorial Guinea’s notorious Black Beach prison in capital Malabo. Ebalé is known for his works that are directly critical of Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang and his government.
Freemuse is concerned about Ebalé’s arbitrary arrest and detention and calls for his release.
“Equatorial Guinea has a serious record of human rights violations, especially the arbitrary arrest, harassment and detention of activists, including artists, who criticise the government through their works. Imprisoning Ramón Esono Ebalé without charges clearly indicates an attempt to intimidate and silence critics of the country’s president and government,” Freemuse Executive Director Dr Srirak Plipat said.
The artist and two Spanish nationals were arrested after leaving a restaurant, taken to the Office against Terrorism and Dangerous Activities at the Central Police Station in Malabo and questioned by more than a dozen security agents. The two Spanish nationals were released, but Ebalé remained at the station where he was further questioned about his critical cartoons, which agents warned could be construed as defamation, reported Amnesty International.
National TV news broadcasts on 19 September reported government allegations of the cartoonist heading an organisation involved in money laundering and counterfeiting. Despite being arraigned on 20 September, Ebalé had not been formally charged and was sent back to prison. His colleagues and family believe his detention and government accusations are part of a strategy to discredit his work, which often consists of drawings focused on human rights abuses, the misappropriation of money and wealth gap, and the people’s fear of speaking out in the country.
Ebalé left his country in 2011 for Paraguay where he could pursue his art without fear of censorship, but returned to his home country on 29 August to renew his passport, reported PRI.
Freemuse urges the Equatorial Guinean government to immediately release Ramón Esono Ebalé and ensure that the right to freedom of expression, which includes artistic creations, even if they are critical of authorities, is protected and respected in the country. Freemuse also reminds the government of Equatorial Guinea that it is a party to international covenants that protect and value such rights.