The apparent vitality of the Beninese press is misleading. Although the country has about 15 privately-owned dailies, their respective circulation totals no more than 3,000 copies. On the whole, press freedom is respected.

The March 2001 presidential election was an occasion for democratic debate relayed by the privately-owned press, even though the majority of titles openly supported the incumbent president, Mathieu Kérékou. As a result, relations between the Beninese press and the authorities are generally good. On International Press Freedom Day on 3 May, the culture and communication minister, Gaston Zossou, saluted the "huge effort" made by the Beninese press – a rare event on the African continent.

Yet on several occasions ODEM, the observatory for media ethics, has called to order newspapers which fail to verify their information. The observatory has asked managing editors to be more careful as regards the sources of articles published.

Journalists with the state-controlled press complain of their obsolete working conditions. In February journalists from ORTB, the national broadcasting office, threatened not to report on the activities of presidential election candidates if they were not given more "material and financial means". They eventually reached an agreement with the state and resumed normal coverage of the election campaign.

One journalist arrested

On 29 September 2001 Patrick Adjamonsi, managing editor of the privately-owned daily L'Aurore, was arrested by police at his home. Two days earlier his newspaper had published an article affirming that "the US intelligence services had reached the conclusion that Benin had served as a relay base for the terrorist network of Osama bin Laden". L'Aurore denied this information the next day and stated that "Benin was not involved in any way in these terrorist attacks". Patrick Adjamonsi was released the same day. The HAAC, the broadcasting and communication regulatory authority, condemned "the irresponsibility of the editor who had seriously called into question his country".

Two journalists attacked

On 18 January 2001 Joël Gbégan, reporter for the privately-owned radio station Golfe FM, and Laurent Akobi, journalist with the privately-owned daily La Cloche, were assaulted by policemen on the Abomey Calavi university campus near the capital.

The journalists were reportedly taken for demonstrators demanding bursary increases and improved working conditions. The Beninese union of private press journalists (UJPB) condemned the "vile and barbaric treatment" inflicted on the journalists. The next morning, as a sign of protest, Cotonou journalists boycotted the new year's wishes of the culture and communication minister, also the government spokesperson.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.