For close to two decades now, the MFWA has been working to promote and improve press freedom, freedom of expression, and media development in Benin. The organisation started work in Benin at a time when there was repression against the media and expression. Interventions rolled out in the country by the MFWA have contributed significantly to achieving the current improved conditions of press freedom and free expression in the country.
MFWA’s Projects and Activities in Benin
Specific projects and activities undertaken by the MFWA in Benin include
- Press freedom and freedom of expression promotion, campaigns and protection (online and offline)
- Promoting internet freedom
- Promoting free, independent, and quality media through experience sharing and capacity building
- Research and publication on media development issues
- Media support sub-component of the Democracy and Gender Equality Support Programme (PADEG)
Some of the specific activities undertaken under these projects include monitoring and reporting of online and offline freedom of expression violations and advocacy for redress; direct engagements with government and other critical stakeholders in the media and internet ecosystem; forums to launch and disseminate findings of publications on internet freedom, media development, and related issues. Capacity building workshops have also been carried out under a number of the projects, particularly the media support sub-component of the Democracy and Gender Equality Support Programme (PADEG).
L’Observatoire de la Déontologie et de l’Ethique dans les Medias (ODEM) is the national partner organisation of the MFWA in Benin. ODEM is a self-regulatory body of the media in Benin that works to promote professionalism in the media.
The MFWA will continue to work with ODEM to monitor press freedom and freedom of expression developments in the country. The MFWA and its country partner will also continue to work on media development for participatory and accountable governance; internet/digital rights advocacy to enhance online freedom and democratic consolidation.
Overview of the Media & FOE Environment
The press freedom and freedom of expression environment in Benin, until recently, has been one of the best in the region. In recent times, however, the country has been recording a number of violations against freedom of expression rights including the killing of some protesters and an internet shutdown during legislative elections.
Other challenges in the sector include weak professional standards, managerial capacity and training institutions, as well as inadequate logistics. There is also some level 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 and regulations:
- 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
- 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
- Digital Code No. 2017-20 that regulates digital activities and related issues such as electronic communications, electronic tools, including the use of evidence in electronic form, electronic transactions, data protection, cyber security and cybercrime.
Some of the rulings of HAAC concerning media operations in the country include
- 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