Benin gained independence from France in 1960. It shares boundaries with Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Togo. Benin is regarded as one of the democratically stable countries in the West Africa region. Even though Benin has witnessed some economic growth over the past few years, it still ranks among the poorest countries in the world. The mainstay of the economy is trade with Nigeria and export of cotton.
Overview of Media & FOE Environment
Free expression and media freedom continue to witness improvement in Benin despite a previous record of repression and violation of media rights. Current major challenges are in the areas of low professional standards, weak managerial capacity, weak training institutions and low logistical capacity. There is also a lot of governmental influence and control over the media (particularly the state-owned media).
Media regulatory bodies in Benin include the constitutionally established regulatory body – the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC) – which is largely controlled by the government. There is also a self-regulatory body, the Media Ethics Observatory (ODEM), and a number of professional associations notable among them are: the Union of media Practitioners of Benin (UPMB), the National Union of Media practitioners of Benin (SYNAPRMEB), the Union of Media Workers of Benin (SYNTRA-Médias), and SYNAPROP-Bénin.
Legal Regulatory Framework For Media Operation
The legal framework of the media in the Republic of Benin is governed by the following laws:
Law 92–32 of December 11, 1990 promulgating the Constitution of the Republic of Benin;
Law 60–12 of June 30, 1960 on press freedom;
Order No. 69–22 Pr/MJL of July 4, 1969, relating to propagation, publication, broadcast and reproduction of false news and other acts likely to disturb the public peace;
Law 97–010 of August 20, 1997 on the liberalisation of the broadcast landscape with criminal provisions on offences committed in the print and broadcast media;
The professional code of ethics of the media;
Establishment Law No. 92–021 of August 21, 1992 on the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication, amended by Establishment of Law No. 93-018 of April 27, 1994;
Decree No. 2000-55 February of 14, 2000 on the mandate, organisation and operation of the ministry in charge of communication;
Several rulings of HAAC concerning the award of frequencies to operators of radio and television stations;
Decree No. 2003-299 of August 19, 2003 on the approval of the rules and regulations of the National Printing Press and Newspaper Board (ONIP).
Decree No. 2005–252 of May 6, 2005 on the approval of the rules and regulations of the Benin Radio and Television Broadcasting Service (ORTB),
Decree No. 2005–790 of December, 2005 pertaining to the approval of the rules and regulations of the Benin News Agency.
MFWA’s work in Benin
The MFWA has been carrying out media rights monitoring and reporting, media capacity building, and media development interventions in Benin during the past fifteen years. The organisation started work in Benin at a time when there was repression against the media and free expression. Between 2009 and 2012, for example, the MFWA successfully led the implementation of an elaborate DANIDA-funded media development programme in Benin. The MFWA’s work has contributed immensely to achieving the current improved conditions of press freedom and free expression in the country.
The MFWA continues to monitor media rights violations in the country. MFWA’s future engagements in Benin will strongly focus on media development for participatory and accountable governance; and internet/digital rights advocacy to enhance online freedom and democratic consolidation.