Equatorial Guinea: cartoonist Ramón Esono Ebalé detained

PEN is extremely concerned over the detention of cartoonist Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé who was arrested on 16 September in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea. He was 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 he 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. He was subsequently sent to Black Beach prison in Malabo where he is being held in preventive detention while further investigations are conducted. He has yet to be charged with an offence.

PEN believes that Esono Ebalé is being arbitrarily detained 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.

English PEN-supported author Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel, Esono Ebalé’s friend and compatriot, has issued the following appeal for his release (translated by Jethro Soutar):

Ramón Esono has been imprisoned since 16 September in Equatorial Guinea because, cartoonist that he is, he drew caricatures of people in power.

Let’s reiterate how it happened: after spending a few years outside Equatorial Guinea, he came back and was arrested within the month. The authorities paraded him on state television, accompanied by the usual lies they’re so dreadful at telling, and then they took him to the infamous Blay Beach, a prison that was supposed to have been demolished in 1979 when the current President-General came to power.

We demand the unconditional release of Ramón Esono and, from this day forth, we hold the entire regime responsible for his detainment as well as all those who fail to speak up on his behalf for fear of what might happen to them.

He is a cartoonist and he has been imprisoned without trial.

By the by: aside from a timid few voices on social media, there has been no clamour for Ramón’s release, be it from high-profile individuals or groups. And political parties do exist in Equatorial Guinea, though they revolve around a single family or are a few adults gathered around a single leader. And there is a Guinean Academy of Language. Yet not a single party or institution has issued a single statement asking for Ramón’s release, and I will go on repeating this until one of them proves me wrong.

The fact that there’s been no clamour is important because Obiang has been in power for as long as I’ve said and these parties go on believing that one day they’ll defeat him at the ballot box. There is not the remotest possibility of democratic elections and yet these individuals and parties neither take a stand against the regime nor demand that it take a democratic path. They are content to play the role of parasite, as they have done for many years, contributing to a bestialisation of vast swathes of the Guinean population.

But we must take a stand. We must speak up.

Freedom for Ramón Esono!

Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel

For further background information, please visit the PEN International website.


Spread the word

Share details of Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé’s detention and Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel’s appeal with friends and colleagues and on social media.  #FreeNseRamon

Write to the authorities

Please send appeals calling on the authorities of Equatorial Guinea to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Ramón Esono Ebalé
  • 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

Write to:

President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea
Mr. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Palacio Presidencial
Avenida de la Libertad Malabo
Equatorial Guinea
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


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This content is published by the English PEN staff.

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