In Benin, journalists are released after 2 months in prison

New York, February 9, 2007—An appeals court in the capital Cotonou released today two journalists of a private daily newspaper after they publicly retracted a rape story. They were jailed since December 2, 2006 on a six-month criminal libel sentence.

Director Clément Adéchian and reporter Cécil Adjévi of L’Informateur were released after agreeing to an out-of-court settlement with plaintiff Maxime Bankolé over an August 29, 2006 story alleging that Bankolé, a court bailiff, had raped a widow, acting Director Franck Pocheme told CPJ. Bankolé withdrew his complaint after the journalists made public apologies in the media and signed an agreement to pay him 5 million CFA francs (US$10,000) in damages, Adéchian later told CPJ.

Adéchian and Adjévi had been sentenced by a lower court to six months in prison, fined 500,000 CFA francs (US$1,000), and jailed the same day. Appeals do not suspend the execution of sentences under the laws of Benin, lawyer Charles Badou told CPJ. A draft law to ban prison sentences for press offenses is tabled for discussion before parliament, he said.

CPJ opposes criminal penalties for defamation-related offenses.

For more on this story, see CPJ’s December 4, 2006 alert.