Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Benin
|Publisher||Committee to Protect Journalists|
|Publication Date||February 1998|
|Cite as||Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Benin, February 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c565272d.html [accessed 6 May 2016]|
In February, Benin's parliament adopted a new media law that allows for private ownership of radio and television stations but imposes harsh criminal penalties for libel. Journalists' groups believe that the law spells an end to the relative era of press freedom that began in 1991 when Benin moved from a Marxist/Leninist government to a republic under multi-party, democratic rule. The law, first proposed in 1991, was reworked over the years into its present formulation. In the context of harsher legislation in effect since the colonial era, however, it is considered potentially tolerable.
In the present local context of flourishing independent publications – the fifth weekly to be published in Benin, Le Point Au Quotidien, appeared on the newstands in August – virtually no one foresees enforcement of the more extreme provisions of the law. Under the new law, insulting the president, foreign heads of state and foreign ministers is punishable by five years in prison or a fine of up to 10 million CFA francs (US$17,700). Those accused of libel or defamation have seven days in which to substantiate their allegations; in the past most cases of defamation were settled through negotiations resulting in retractions or in the right to reply. But many journalists point with satisfaction to the law's authorization of private radio and television broadcasting, also noting that the new statute replaced a 1960 law that was extremely repressive although not fully enforced.