Benin ALERT: Journalists arrested, assaulted

The director of publications of the Le Telegramme newspaper, Etienne Houessou and the editor-in-chief, Norbert Houessou, together with two staff reporters of the paper, Blaise Fagnihoun and M. Assogba, were on April 1, 2003 arrested and physically assaulted for publishing an “open letter” by a group calling itself the “Coalition of Builders of a Better Future for the Police”. The said “open letter” denounced what the disgruntled police officers described as “underhand dealings within the national police service.”

According to Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)-Benin, the journalists were taken handcuffed to the Cotonou Central Police Station, molested and detained until 7:00pm.

Police Commissioner Francis Awagbè Béhanzin later told a news conference that the newspaper had published several fallacious and insulting material against the Inspector General of Police (DGPN), Raymond Fadonougbo; and that Etienne Houessou had “publicly insulted and threatened senior police officers with death and has been constantly attacking them in the columns of his paper.”

The MFWA is disappointed by this instance of the abuse of the freedom of expression rights of journalists in Benin, which has often been touted as the model of democracy and the respect for fundamental rights and liberties in West Africa. The MFWA urges the government of President Mattheu Kerekou to uphold the country’s democratic credentials by demonstrating a tolerance for dissenting opinion and freedom of expression in the country.

We request you to kindly protest the attack on the independent media in Benin.

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