Reporters Without Borders condemns the assaults by police officers on Etienne
Houessou, publication director of the newspaper "Le Télégramme", and three
of his colleagues on 1 April 2003.
"Whatever their mistake was, nothing can justify the inappropriate detention
of these journalists and the acts of violence committed against them. In
this country, which views itself as a democratic model in West Africa, legal
provisions exist preventing the assault or detention of citizens for their
writings. We hope that this is an isolated incident and ask that you punish
those responsible for these violent acts," Robert Ménard, the organisation's
secretary-general, said in a letter to Minister of Communications and the
Promotion of New Technologies Gaston Zossou.
Three journalists from "Le Télégramme" were arrested, physically assaulted
and taken to Cotonou's central police station on 1 April. Houessou, who had
fled earlier, went to the police station a few hours later, after police
officers had assured him that that he would not be physically assaulted.
Nonetheless, the publication director was beaten up and detained until 7:00
p.m. (local time).
The journalists are accused of publishing several news items containing
misleading information and insults directed at National Police (DGPN)
Director-General Raymond Fadonougbo and Police Chief Francis Awagbè
Béhanzin. The DGPN's spokesperson had previously summoned Houessou in early February, issued him a warning and accused him of violating the Beninese
press's code of ethics.
The Union of Private Press Journalists of Benin (Union des Journalistes de
la presse privée du Bénin, UJPBO) declared Monday 7 April a "day without
media" to protest against the national police's abusive behaviour.