Journalists arrested, paper censured over Bin Laden article

New York, October 3, 2001—
Patrick Adjamonsi, Titus Folly, and Nicole Lindagba, publisher, editor-in-chief, and secretary, respectively, of the independent daily L’Aurore, were detained by police over a September 27 article by Adjamonsi alleging that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network had links in Benin.

Adjamonsi’s piece also alleged that U.S. intelligence services were investigating Benin in the wake of the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

On September 28, the Benin Cabinet held an extraordinary meeting to discuss the controversial article. That same day, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the government issued a statement condemning the article and asking the Beninese press to avoid publishing stories that “tarnish the image of the country.” The statement also criticized the local press for its allegedly lax journalistic ethics.

Government ministers further called on the High Authority for Audio-Visual Communications (HAAC), the official regulatory body for the media, to take action against the newspaper, the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network reported.

Also on September 28, L’Aurore printed a retraction of the story, saying that Benin was not in any way involved in the terrorist attacks, AFP reported. That same evening, however, police detained Folly and Lindagba for questioning. Both were released after a few hours.

On the morning of September 29, police arrested Adjamonsi at his home and took him to the police station, where he was questioned about the article for four hours and then released.

Later that day, the HAAC issued a statement condemning the paper and publisher for their allegations. Sources in Cotonou told CPJ that no further disciplinary action was taken against L’Aurore and that the paper came out on schedule the following week.

On December 3, the HAAC announced that Adjamonsi’s press accreditation will be withdrawn, and that L’Aurore will be excluded from receiving any aid from the state. The Beninois government distributes 300 million CFA francs (US $407,301.126) every year among the private media.