A non-profit organization that promotes digital inclusion through ICTs and defends digital rights by name Paradigm Initiative (PIN), has expressed concerns over the censorship of online media in Benin Republic.
A press release signed on July 7, 2020 by the High Authority for Audiovisual and Communication (HAAC) of Benin announces the “immediate suspension” of several news sites in line in the country.
The said press release also threatens journalists from online press organs with legal proceedings for violation of article 252 which stipulates that: “the direct or indirect exploitation in the Republic of Benin, free of charge or against payment, of a website providing audiovisual communication and written press services intended for the public is subject to the authorisation of the High Authority for Audiovisual and Communication”.
To this end, Paradigm Initiative has expressed deep concern by this decision of the HAAC whose objective is undoubtedly to stifle the expression of plural opinions on the Internet in Benin and calls on the government to give the necessary time to online media for their compliance.
“The decision of the HAAC and its demands endanger the future of bloggers and media distributing online content in Benin. We urge the Beninese government to take appropriate measures to guarantee freedom of expression online,” said the Communications Officer of Paradigm Initiative, Emmanuel Agbenonwossi.
In addition, Paradigm Initiative urges Beninese President Patrice Talon to respect the international commitments made by Benin in terms of human rights in general and digital rights in particular.
“Since President Patrice Talon came to power in 2016, press freedom has continued to deteriorate in Benin and the country has lost 35 places since 2016 in the World Ranking established by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). No country has experienced such a decline in recent years”.
“From 2016 to date, Benin has recorded 11 cases of digital rights violations ranging from disruption to social media during an election period to the arrest and detention of journalists for online publications.
“The most recent case is the conviction in January 2020 of journalist Ignace Sossou to eighteen months in prison for having tweeted the words of a prosecutor during a conference organized by Canal France international”, the press statement by PIN reads.