2003 Documented Cases – Benin

APRIL 1, 2003

Etienne Houessou, Le Télégramme
Blaise Fagnihoun, Le Télégramme
Norbert Houessou, Le Télégramme

Police in Cotonou came to the offices of the independent daily Le Télégramme and demanded that Editor-in-Chief Fagnihoun accompany them to the police station. The agents manhandled Fagnihoun before handcuffing him and taking him into custody. When Norbert Houessou, a journalist at the paper, protested, he was beaten, handcuffed, and taken into custody. The police commanded Le Télégramme's computer technician to follow them as well and ordered the remaining staff to close the paper's offices.

The three journalists were driven to the offices of National Police Director General Raymond Fadonougbo, where they were assaulted and accused of writing an open letter published that day allegedly from anonymous police officers to Fadonougbo. The letter accused Fadonougbo and Police Chief Francis Awagbé Béhanzin of manipulating the results of the national police exam.

The paper's publication director, Etienne Houessou, went to the police station later that afternoon after hearing what had happened to his staff. Houessou was arrested at the station, beaten by police, and thrown into a cell. He was accused of insulting the police and of violating journalistic ethics.

All of the journalists were released without charge that evening, after having spent several hours in custody. On April 7, Benin's private journalists observed "a day without press" to protest the police's brutal treatment of their colleagues. No private newspapers published, and private radio stations played only music. The state-owned La Nation, which did appear, published a condemnation of the police's behavior.

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