Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) has named a detained Equatorial Guinea catroonist as winner of the ’2017 Courage in Cartooning Award.’
CRNI said the choice of Ramon was because of his ‘continuous refusal to be intimidated by the threats made against him, and his courage in the face of a brutal and repressive regime.’
‘Mr. Ramón Esono Ebalé is a gifted and outspoken graphic novelist and editorial cartoonist born in Equatorial Guinea in West Africa and until very recently a resident in Paraguay,’ said Joel Pett, president of board of directors of CRNI.
Mr. Ebalé’s continuous refusal to be intimidated by the threats made against him, and his courage in the face of a brutal and repressive regime led our Board of Directors to make this decision.
The Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning is an annual gong given to ‘the cartoonist or cartoonists who have exhibited great courage and self-sacrifice in the pursuit of their craft and in the exercise of free speech.’
Ramon was arrested on September 16 in the Equatorial Guinea capital Malabo by state security agencies. He has lived outside the country for several years and had just returned to the country to renew his passport.
His work usually criticizes the president and government officials. As a result there were fears that he may be charged with criminal defamation. The government has, however, charged him with money laundering and currency counterfeiting, charges CRNI described as ‘cooked up and outrageous’
‘The award will be given in absentia during the proceedings of the annual convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists on November 4, 2017 at a venue on the Hofstra University campus in Long Island, New York,’ the group added.
Thousands have signed an online petition started by activists, friends and family members demanding his release as he has been detained and interrogated for the over 72-hour limit required by the law.
International rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) have previously called on President Teodoro Obiang Nguema to release the journalist and to repeal the defamation statute which allows the criminal prosecution of the government’s critics.
“Prosecuting a cartoonist for unflattering satirical drawings is incompatible with free speech and only highlights the power of the pen,” said Sarah Saadoun, researcher at Human Rights Watch.