25 January 2013

Benin: Television Station Director Sentenced and Fined

press release

A Court in Cotonou, the capital, on January 16, 2013 sentenced Berthe Cakpossa, Director of privately-owned television channel, Canal 3 Benin, to three months in prison with hard labour for airing a press conference in which a former government official alleged corrupt practices in President Yayi Boni's government.

The Court also fined Cakpossa an amount of 500,000 CFA francs (about $US1,000) and symbolic damages of 1 franc.

According to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent, Cakpossa was convicted for offence against the President by airing entirely, a September 18, 2012 press conference where Lawyer Lionel Agbo, former Presidential Advisor and Spokesperson, accused some members of Boni's entourage of engaging in corrupt practices.

The sentence was read as part of the trial of Lawyer Agbo, who has also been sentenced for six months for defamation.

On September 19, 2012, President Boni wrote to the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC), the statutory media regulatory body, to register his displeasure at Canal 3's broadcast of the press conference and accused the television station and other media houses for "disturbing public order."

President Boni, reportedly requested that sanctions should be meted out against the television network.

After considering the President's letter and request, the State-run-HAAC on November 22, 2012 suspended twoof Canal 3's interactive programmes, Actu matin and Arbre à Palabre, for two weeks and three months respectively.

Arbre à Palabre, remains suspended until February 25, 2013.

The MFWA joins the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Union of Media Professionals of Benin (UPMB) and other free expression advocates to appeal to President Boni to overturn this conviction.

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