The Beninois media regulatory body, Haute Autorité de l’Audiovisuel et de la Communication (HAAC) has suspended a private daily, Le Matinal for publishing articles described by the commission president as “abusive”.
HAAC President, Adam Boni Tessi, announced the suspension on November 4, 2015. The MFWA correspondent reported, however, that there has been a spirited backlash against the decision. Reports say the HAAC chief has attracted criticisms from media organizations as well as a former vice-president of the regulatory body for taking a unilateral action.
The suspension is in connection with articles published in the October 26, 27 and 28, 2015 editions of the Le Matinal newspaper, publications which the HAAC statement said had abused the head of state and a member of parliament.
Heavily criticised for taking the decision without consulting his colleague board members, Adam Boni Tessi replied that it was a “measure of containment”. He added that it was urgent because “Le Matinal is a persistent offender which the HAAC has called to order several times”.
Nevertheless, a former HAAC Vice-President, Edouard Loko, said there was nothing urgent to warrant Tessi’s recourse to emergency measures. “In the instant case, a week has passed since the publications; so I do not see the urgency that prevented the president from convening a plenary meeting and giving the newspaper’s management a public hearing before taking the decision to suspend them”, Mr Loko said.
This decision is “totally senseless”, added Frank Kpocheme, president of l’Union des Professionnels des Médias du Bénin (UPMB). In a joint communiqué dated November 4, 2015, the UPMB and the media managers’ Union, Conseil National du Patronat de la Presse et de l’Audiovisuel du Bénin (CNPA-Bénin), condemned “this strategy to mussel the press.”
The communiqué called on the HAAC stop targeting “media organisations which have chosen editorial lines that are critical of the government.”
The MFWA is concerned about the unilateral action of the HAAC president, and joins the call for the management of the suspended paper to be given a hearing.