Ecuadorian Cartoonist “Rectifies” His Joke Under Government Sanction

By: Sofía Ramírez Fionda - Feb 6, 2014, 10:38 am

EspañolOn Wednesday, cartoonist Xavier Bonilla from the newspaper El Universo — also known as Bonil — released the amended version of his controversial cartoon. The newspaper initial, sanctioned version came out on December 28.

bonil281213Bonil’s original cartoon (pictured right) portrayed the raid of Fernando Villavicencio’s residence, a former oil unionist and legislative adviser. However, it incited direct attacks from Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa.

Villavicencio is under investigation with the attorney general over allegations that he spied on and hacked the e-mail accounts of high government officials. Villavicencio, alongside lawmaker Cléver Jiménez, has also denounced irregularities and state corruption, especially in oil affairs, and previously claimed to have more damning information ready to release.

Bonil captioned his sketch: “Police and attorney general break into the residence of Fernando Villavicencio, and take documents amid corruption complaints.” As was widely reported, the attorney general had entered Villavicencio’s residence and confiscated computers and electronic devices, in search of evidence for the investigation.

President Rafael Correa, however, considered the cartoon’s caption an express assertion, so it would have to be verifiable for the media to release it. The superintendent for communication and information, headed by Carlos Ochoa, then decided the verdict for this case: Bonil would have to revise the text portrayed in the cartoon.

In addition, Ochoa fined El Universo 2 percent of its average income from the last three months. He found the newspaper guilty of taking a stance regarding the innocence of Villavicencio, while he was still under investigation.

boni0402

El Universo released Bonil’s correction (above) in Wednesday’s newspaper, which portrays a much friendlier meeting at Villavicencio’s home. While the media outlet and the cartoonist will proceed to refute the government’s measures, they can only do so while compliant with the superintendent’s verdict.

Bonil’s lawyer, Ramiro García Falconí, has also criticized the superintendent’s failure to guarantee the defendant’s right to self-defense in a fair trial: Bonil had only 15 minutes to argue and present his case, and five minutes to object to any allegations.

Regarding this correction, Julio Clavijo, an Ecuadorian public policy specialist, says that Bonil “wasn’t frightened and knew how to satirize again the raid on Villavicencio. However, this leaves a terrible precedent as this case fosters self-censorship, the real purpose of the law of communication. With this [Bonil’s] correction, the law has its first victims.”

This case is the first one since Ecuador’s new Law of Communication came into force — also known as the “gag rule” — which has generated widespread criticism because of its extensive reach. Lawyer Santiago Guarderas declared to El Comercio, a Quito-based newspaper, that the case could become a dangerous precedent of “previous censorship.” Even though Ecuador’s constitution and the Law of Communication guarantee freedom of expression and forbid any type of censorship, he says, Correa’s latest measures and the superintendent’s verdict will make the media think twice before releasing any controversial content.

“The current power structure aims to eliminate any kind of questioning regarding what the government considers to be the ‘absolute’ truth in front of its voters. This kind of approach seeks to instill fear,” Clavijo states. They want to “reduce the possibility of any social demonstrations, mitigate regime weakening in future elections, and keep power in their hands for the long run with their version of the facts.”

The verdict against Bonil caused a stir in the global media, and brought back international attention on Ecuador’s freedom of expression under Correa’s rule. Most notably, it raised the voice of cartoonists all over the world who expressed their solidarity with the Ecuadorian artist.

Translated by Marcela Estrada.

Sofía Ramírez Fionda Sofía Ramírez Fionda

Based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ramírez Fionda is a former Spanish-language editor and journalist with the PanAm Post. She holds degrees in political science and international relations, and you can follow her on Twitter @SofiFionda.

Peter Schiff, I Salute You: Don’t Back Down on the Minimum Wage

By: Fergus Hodgson - @FergHodgson - Feb 6, 2014, 6:00 am

Last week I wrote about the economic folly of the Daily Show segment on the minimum wage and their attack on Peter Schiff. However, as more evidence has come to light, the actions of the television show staff appear even more disingenuous and unsavory. Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital and an exemplary advocate for free enterprise, has not bowed to hate mail and shaming against him. Not a stranger to criticism, he has hit back — in print and via his radio show — and with good reason. [embed width="665"]http://youtu.be/F9LNP-yXXUc[/embed] If you're the sort of person to listen to talk radio, the full hour is worth your time. Even the first half hour will give you a sense for why he is justified in describing the segment as a hit piece. He was, as he reflects, "walking into a trap." "But given how counterproductive I know such [a minimum wage] increase would be to those the law proposes to help, I took the risk anyway." That trap entailed cutting four hours of footage into about 75 seconds of on-air time — during which the editors mixed various clips that did not even go together, but they made it appear that way in the segment. Schiff had, for example, explained that the minimum wage stopped less skilled people from competing with more skilled people. The scenario he offered was two people working at $7 per hour undercutting one person at $15 per hour. Samantha Bee did not show that, though, just her response: "Why have one job for $15 an hour, when you could have two jobs for $7.50 an hour?" Then she superimposed a clip of Schiff from an entirely different segment of the interview: "Would you rather do that or pay twice as much for your burger?" Perhaps I should have known better, because that line of discussion from Schiff did seem awkward. Now he is calling on The Daily Show to release the uncut footage, so people can verify for themselves whether they accurately represented him. All the highly misleading editing aside, the producers couldn't event get the supply and demand curves right — which just goes to show how much concern they have for basic economics, what Schiff sought to explain. Sure, they updated the clip after the show on the website, but this is what they released live.

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