Today, March 24, 2020 is exactly three months since Beninois journalist Ignace Sossou was sent to jail for simply repeating the words of the country’s Prosecutor on social media.
Sossou, who works with the online media, Benin Web TV, was sentenced on December 24, 2019 to 18 months in prison on a charge of “harassment by means of electronic communication” and fined CFA Francs 200,000 (USD 400).
The charge related to the journalist’s publication on Twitter and Facebook which was, in fact, a repetition of the words of the country’s Public Prosecutor.
“The internet shutdown on (legislative) polling day on April 28 (2019) is an admission of weakness on the part of those in power,” the Prosecutor said at Forum in Cotonou on December 18, 2019.
Following a complaint by the Prosecutor that the journalist had taken his words “out of context,” the Central Office for the Repression of Cybercrime on December 20, 2019 arrested Sossou at his home and detained him for four days until he was charged.
One of the professional organisations to which Sossou is affiliated, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), said excerpts of audio recordings of the workshop showed that Sossou did not misrepresent the prosecutor’s remarks.
Prior to his 18-month sentencing, Sossou had been handed a suspended sentence on August 12, 2019, for having published an investigative report on an alleged tax evasion involving a business magnate of French nationality in Benin.
The Media Foundation for West Africa would like to reiterate its appeal to the Benin authorities to release Sossou.