Benin TV director pardoned for offending president

Berthe Cakpossa, director of the private Canal 3 TV, was pardoned by President Boni Yayi on January 31, 2013, two weeks after a court sentenced her to jail and fined her for “offending the head of state,” according to news reports.

Cakpossa, who was sentenced to three months by the court, was not in prison at the time of the pardon, because prison terms of less than six months do not require immediate incarceration, Cakpossa’s defense lawyer, Claret Dedie, told CPJ. The court had also ordered the journalist to pay a fine of 500,000 francs CFA (US$1,000) and symbolic damages of 1 franc CFA, news reports said. All of the fines were suspended pending an appeal the journalist filed.

Cakpossa was charged in connection with a September 18 broadcast of a press conference in which Lionel Agbo, a former adviser to Yayi, had accused the president’s entourage of corruption and alleged that the head of state was aware, according to local journalists and news reports. Under Benin’s 1997 press law, journalists are considered the author of third-party statements they report, Dedie told CPJ.

Authorities released a statement on January 31 that said Cakpossa and Agbo, who was given a six-month prison term, were pardoned after the president had decided to withdraw his complaint against them “in the interest of easing tension,” Agence France-Presse reported.

Yayi had filed a complaint with Benin’s state-run media regulator, the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC), on September 19, the day after Canal 3 broadcast the press conference, in which he denied the accusations and accused the station of “disturbing public order,” reports said. HAAC suspended two of Canal 3’s TV programs on November 20, according to news reports.