|MARCH 16, 2004|
Updated: August 20, 2004
Jean-Baptiste Hounkonnou, Le Nouvel Essor
LEGAL ACTION, IMPRISONED
Hounkonnou, publication director for the independent daily Le Nouvel Essor, was imprisoned following a March 16 court conviction on charges of criminal defamation. He was taken to the civil prison in Parakou, a city in the eastern central region of Benin, where the newspaper is based.
The charges stem from a December 2003 Le Nouvel Essor article alleging that a local resident had committed adultery.
In addition to receiving six months in prison, Hounkonnou was ordered to pay damages of 600,000 CFA francs (US$1,120) and a fine of 200,000 CFA francs (US$375), local journalists said. Beninese journalists' organizations protested the sentence.
On April 17, Benin's Court of Appeal granted the journalist's request for a provisional release, and he was freed that day, according to CPJ sources. Hounkonnou's case is ongoing, and he could face additional jail time if he loses the appeal.
JUNE 8, 2004
Posted: August 20, 2004
Patrick Adjamonsi, L'Aurore
LEGAL ACTION, IMPRISONED
Patrick Adjamonsi, publication director of the private daily L'Aurore, was released August 19, 2004, after spending six days in prison on criminal defamation charges. Adjamonsi, whose original sentence was overturned, faces a new trial in the fall.
The charges against Adjamonsi stem from an article he wrote for L'Aurore in November 2003, which criticized the distribution of government subsidies for the private press by Benin's communications authority La Haute Autorité de l'Audiovisuel et de la Communication (HAAC). According to local sources, the article alleged the subsidies were not properly distributed, and suggested their distribution could have been influenced by corruption.
In February 2004, two administrative employees of the HAAC, Amélie Amoussou and Noël Sohouénou, pressed defamation charges against Adjamonsi. On June 8, Adjamonsi was sentenced to six months in prison and a symbolic fine of one CFA franc (less than one U.S. cent). According to local sources, Adjamonsi was not present at his trial and had not hired a lawyer, so the conviction and sentencing took place in absentia.
On August 13, Adjamonsi was arrested and imprisoned in Cotonou, Benin's largest city. A lawyer subsequently hired by the journalist successfully challenged the sentence on procedural grounds. The court ordered a retrial, for which a hearing has been scheduled on October 19.
JULY 20, 2004
John Akintola, L'Indépendent, La Pyramide
Christophe Hodonou, La Pyramide
Akintola and Hodonou were convicted of criminal defamation and sentenced to six months in prison and a symbolic fine of one CFA franc (less than one U.S. cent). The defamation charge stemmed from an article published in November 2003, in the private daily La Pyramide. Akintola, the author and the publication director of the private weekly L'Indépendent, and Hodonou, publication director of La Pyramide, were held responsible for the article's content.
The article criticized the distribution of government subsidies for the private press by Benin's communications authority La Haute Autorité de l'Audiovisuel et de la Communication (HAAC). In February, 2004, two administrative employees of the HAAC, Amélie Amoussou and Noël Sohouénou, pressed defamation charges against the journalists.
Akintola and Hodonou did not respond to their court summons, and they were convicted in absentia. Their sentences were later overturned on procedural grounds, and the warrant for their arrest was rescinded on August 19. The court has ordered a re-trial, with the first hearing scheduled for October.
Amoussou and Sohouénou also pressed defamation charges against another journalist, Patrick Adjamonsi, for a similar article published in the private daily L'Aurore, also in November 2003. Adjamonsi's sentence, imposed in June 2004, was also overturned.