The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on authorities in Benin to decriminalise defamation after three journalists and the director of a private media company were each sentenced to six months in jail for slander.
“We protest against this judgment, which is not the solution to journalistic errors or mistakes,” said Gabriel Baglo, director of the IFJ Africa office. “Press Freedom has deteriorated in Benin since President Yayi Boni came to power. We are calling on the government and Members of Parliament to make sure that slander is decriminalised as soon as possible. ”
Four other journalists have been in prison since September 2006 due to other defamation convictions.
In the most recent case, Ismaël Soumanou, Director of the La Gazette du Golf, which owns television channel Golf TV and radio station Golf Fm; Euloge Aïdasso, Director of Golf Fm; Charbel Aïhou, Director of Golf TV; and Joel Ahoffodji, former Director of Golf TV were sentenced on February 16 to six months of imprisonment and a fine of 500.000 CFA (750 Euros) each for slandering former minister Luc Gnacadja. The journalists allegedly accused the minister of embezzlement in February 2006. The journalists can appeal the judgement.
After nearly two years without any imprisonment of journalists, President Boni’s regime has reversed that trend since his rise to power in March 2006. In that time at least four journalists have been imprisoned for slandering.
According to the Union of Media Professionals of Benin (UPMB), the Ministry of Communication has started a procedure to decriminalise press slander.
“We are currently discussing with some Members of Parliament how to make this process succeed but also to make sure that these jail sentences are not to be replaced by heavy fines,” said Wilfrid Herve Adoun, UPMB President.
The IFJ is supporting the UPMB’s efforts to decriminalise slander and believes that self-regulatory bodies are a better way to regulate the media.
For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries