Upholding Press Freedom: Court Orders Media Regulator to lift Ban on Newspaper

In what constitutes a victory for press freedom, La Nouvelle Tribune, a private newspaper in Benin, has won an appeal against a ban imposed on it by the media regulator.

The Cotonou Court of Appeal on May 16, 2019, ruled that the prohibition of La Tribune’s publication by the La Haute Autorité de l’Audiovisuelle et de la Communication (HAAC), the media regulator, is “an affront” and ordered the regulator to lift it.

“Decision No. 18-34 / HAAC of 26 July 2018 prohibiting the publication of the newspaper until further notice constitutes an affront,” the court ruled.

The court ordered the HAAC to lift the band on La Nouvelle Tribune with immediate effect, failing which it will be liable to a penalty of 500,000 CFA for every day of default.

It would be recalled that the newspaper was suspended indefinitely on May 23, 2018 and July 26, 2018 by the HAAC after a series of critical articles about President Patrice Talon of Benin.

 “La Nouvelle Tribune has, since January, 2018, been engaged in a crusade of insults and outrageous reporting on the private life of the Head of State, using very demeaning words,” the suspension letter read.

On September 7, 2018, the management of the newspaper took the case to a court of first instance in Cotonou. The judge, Edibayo Dasssoundo, in his decision nᵒ019 / 18 2nd CH-CM of 12 October 2018, declared that the HAAC was within its rights to suspend the newspaper.

Unsatisfied with the verdict, the New Tribune went to the Appeal Court which on May 16, overturned the decision of the court of first instance.

The MFWA welcomes the verdict of the Court of Appeal as step in the right direction and a victory against repression.  We applaud the Management of La Tribune for their tenacious pursuit of justice and commend the Court of Appeal for upholding the law and denouncing arbitrariness.

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