Benin: Journalist sentenced for “harassment”
Ignace Sossou via Twitter
On 24 December 2019, a court in Benin sentenced investigative journalist Ignace Sossou to 18 months in prison and fined him for “harassment” for posting tweets.
The tweets posted on 18 December quoted Benin’s Public Prosecutor during a conference hosted by the French media development agency CFI. They stated that the Public Prosecutor had described Benin’s digital code as “a weapon” that can be used against journalists. The tweets also questioned the government’s decision to shut down the internet during elections in April 2019.
The Public Prosecutor alleged that Ignace Sossou had taken his remarks out of context and issued a complaint against the journalist at the Court of First Instance in Cotonou.
On 20 December 2019, the Central Office for the Repression of Cybercrime arrested Ignace Sossou, without a warrant, supported by the Central Police Station in Godomey, southern Benin. His home was searched in his presence and his phone was analyzed by the technical and scientific police.
On 24 December, Ignace Sossou appeared before a judge. He acknowledged having written the tweets but not to having harassed the Public Prosecutor. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and received a fine of 200,000 FCFA (approximately 300 euros). He is being detained in Maison d’Arret Prison, Cotonou, southern Benin. He has appealed his conviction and is waiting for the appeal to be scheduled.
Amnesty International considers that Ignace Sossou’s detention is arbitrary and in violation of the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression. Amnesty International is concerned about the repressive climate and undue restrictions on the right to freedom of expression in Benin. The authorities must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights journalists, bloggers, activists and human rights defenders, in accordance with the country's international human rights obligations.
Ignace Sossou must be immediately and unconditionally released.
Please send a message to the president without delay.
- Start with Your Excellency and a sentence about yourself to make your message unique.
- Share your dismay at the sentence passed on investigative journalist Ignace Sossou, for “harassment through electronic communication”.
- Ask him to order the immediate and unconditional release of Ignace Sossou who is arbitrarily detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.
- Urge his government to amend Law No. 2017-20 of 20 April 2018 on the Digital Code, bringing it into conformity with international standards on freedom of expression, particularly by decriminalizing press-offenses and the publication of false information and online press crimes.
President of the Republic of Benin
Palais de la Marina
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter: @PresidenceBenin or @patrice_talon
Mr. Ahobadé Hermann Dessoh
Chargé d'affaires, Embassy of Benin
470 Somerset Street West
Ottawa, Ontario K1R 5J8
Phone: 613 233 4429
Fax: 613 233 8952
In Benin at least 17 journalists, bloggers and political activists have been prosecuted in less than two years under 2018 Digital Law. Some of the repressive provisions undermine the right to freedom of expression and media freedom in the country.
After declaring that it "distances itself from publications and from these types of practices which are unethical and give a bad name to the profession as a whole”, CFI has publicly presented “an apology for the unfolding of the events in which he [Ignace Sossou] was a victim”.
In another case, Ignace Sossou was prosecuted in August 2019 for publishing “false information’’ in connection with two articles on tax evasion in Benin. He had been sentenced by the Cotonou First Class Court of First Instance for defamation to a suspended month in prison and a fine of 500,000 FCFA.
If you want Updates on this case, send your request to email@example.com with “Keep me updated on UA 8/20 Benin” in the subject line.