New York, May 3, 2004—Jean-Baptiste Hounkonnou, publication director of the Beninese independent daily Le Nouvel Essor, was granted a provisional release after spending six weeks in jail on criminal defamation charges.
On April 27, Benin’s Court of Appeal granted Hounkonnou’s request for provisional release, and he was freed the same day, according to CPJ sources. He is due to reappear in court on May 27 and could face jail time again if he loses the appeal.
On March 16, Hounkonnou was sentenced to six months in prison on criminal defamation charges. The case stemmed from a December 2003 Le Nouvel Essor article alleging that a local resident in Parakou, the east central city where the newspaper is based, had committed adultery.
According to CPJ records, this was the first time a journalist had been imprisoned for a press offense since President Mathieu Kérékou, previously president in the 1980s, returned to office in 1996.