The Benin’s media regulatory body, the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC), banned the media from publishing or broadcasting what it described as “premature” political campaign materials on the country’s 2011 General Elections.
In a communiqué, HAAC said it would close down or withdraw the operating license of any media organization that violated the directive. The HAAC’s ban was to remain in force until 15 days before the elections when the Electoral Commission is expected to officially declare the campaign open.
Political advertising slots, photographs and manifestos of the various candidates were banned from the media.
The directive further stated that in the case of the electronic media only experts and competent professionals could handle political broadcasts and phone-in programmes. The directive was, however, met with widespread condemnation.
The Benin National Newspapers Owners Association (PNPB) in a statement described the HAAC’s decision as arbitrary and inimical to media freedom, which is the foundation of any democracy. The PNPB said HAAC had no powers to sanction or close down any media.
Two other organizations, the National Council of Owners of the Print and Electronic Media of Benin (CNPA-Benin) and the Union of Media Practitioners of Benin (UPMB), also in a letter to the HAAC, stated that the decision would restrict media practice in the country.