CPJ condemns jailing of two journalists for criminal libel


New York, December 4, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned at the jailing in Benin of two journalists convicted of criminal defamation.
A court in the capital Cotonou sentenced editor Clément Adéchian and reporter Cécil Adjévi of the private daily L’Informateur to six months in prison on December 2. It also fined them CFA francs 500,000 (US$1,000), according to CPJ sources and media reports. They were jailed the same day.

The prosecution was brought after a complaint by a court bailiff Maxime Bankolé in connection with an August 29 story alleging that he had raped a widow. Bankolé denied the allegations. He told CPJ that other newspapers had retracted the story but that L’Informateur had refused to do so.

“We urge anyone aggrieved by the work of the press to pursue damages in civil court,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Jailing journalists for what they write impedes the free circulation of ideas. Authorities in Benin should reform criminal defamation legislation and ensure that adequate civil laws are in place. Clément Adéchian and Cécil Adjévi should not be in jail.”

Local journalists associations issued a statement saying that the imprisonment will tarnish Benin’s democratic image.