Defamation Laws In Benin
Freedom of speech and the press are protected by the Benin Constitution, and the government has developed a reputation for respecting these rights in practice. However, in 2006, there were some developing events which arguably affected Benin’s positive freedom of expression.
Presidential Interference In Benin Libel Law
In December 2006, the 1997 Press Law that criminalizes libel was utilized against the newspaper “L’Informateur” for refusing to retract a story of rape against court bailiff and claimant Maxine Bankole. Both the editor and the journalist of the “L’Informateur” were sentenced to imprisonment of six months and a fine of $1,000.
During their final days in power, leading up to the March 2006 election, Mathieu Kerekou’s regime made a number of direct attempts to limit critical content in the media industry.
In February 2006, the managing editor of a daily newspaper, “Panorama”, was temporarily detained and charged with high treason after publishing an article describing an alleged coup attempt intended to keep Kerekou in power. In addition, in early March of 2006, Kerekou’s Communications Minister fired two top officials at the state-run broadcast office after they refused to broadcast a government videotape allegedly proving the presence of electoral fraud due to doubts about the tape’s authenticity.
After the election, the newly-elected President Boni Yayi appointed a new Minister of Communications who immediately reinstated the officials who were fired. However, threats against the press did not entirely disappear with the resignation of Kerekou. On September 2006, three journalists with two separate privately-run newspapers were arrested and temporarily detained for articles critical of the police and the new president’s family.