The media regulator in Benin, Haute Autorite de l’Audiovisuel et de la Communication (HAAC) has closed down a private radio station owned by a leading opposition politician for failure to renew its licence.
The station, Soleil FM, announced to its listeners shortly after 11 p.m. on December, 17, 2019 that it was going to shut down in compliance with the HAAC’s orders at midnight.
In August, 2019, the Management of Radio Soleil submitted an application to the HAAC to renew their licence which was due to expire in December 2019. However, the regulatory body rejected the application, which was signed by the Manager of the radio station, Jérôme Kassa. The HAAC insisted that no other person can sign documents to renew a license which was issued in the name of Sebastien Ajavon, the owner of the station who is currently living in France.
The Management of the station said as they were working towards regularising the application, the HAAC wrote to order them to cease broadcasting because the existing licence had expired.
Jérôme Kassa does not rule out political reasons for the closure of the radio station. He however says he is ready to dialogue with HAAC to ensure that Soleil FM resumes broadcasting.
The station is known for its objective but hard-hitting reportage and analysis of national issues and is the favourite of the majority of opposition supporters seeking an alternative narrative to the pro-government news outlets and the “captured” state media.
The MFWA finds the closure of Soleil FM as very unfortunate, especially when the management of the station had initiated steps to fulfill its statutory obligations to the HAAC. We urge HAAC to soften its stance and allow the radio station to renew its license.