06/05/2020

Urgent Action Update: Journalist Still Arbitrarily Detained (Benin: UA 8.20)


On 19 May, the Cotonou Court of Appeal reduced the sentence against investigative journalist, Ignace Sossou, to 12 months in prison, including six months suspended. He was first sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined for “harassment” on 24 December 2019 for tweets quoting the Public Prosecutor during a conference hosted by the French media development agency CFI. He is due to be released on 24 June. Ignace Sossou is being arbitrarily detained and must be immediately and unconditionally released.

Share
Share

TAKE ACTION:

  1. Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them.
  2. Click here to let us know the actions you took on Urgent Action 8.20. It’s important to report because we share the total number with the officials we are trying to persuade and the people we are trying to help.
Patrice Talon
President of the Republic of Benin
Due to postal restrictions caused by COVID-19, please only send physical mail to the Embassy
Email: [email protected]
Ambassador Hector Posset
Representative Jean-Claude do Rego
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Benin
Phone: 212 684-1339 I Fax: 212 684-2058
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Mr. do Rego

Your Excellency,

I welcome the Appeals Court decision of 19 May to reduce the sentence against investigative journalist Ignace Sossou to 12 months, including six months suspended sentence. However, I am deeply concerned about his continued arbitrary detention simply for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

On 18 December 2019, Ignace Sossou posted tweets quoting the Public Prosecutor during a conference hosted by the French media development agency CFI. In his tweets, Ignace Sossou questioned the government’s decision to shut down the Internet during elections in April 2019 and stated that the Public Prosecutor had described Benin’s digital code as “a weapon” that can be used against journalists. The Public Prosecutor alleged that his remarks had been taken out of context by Ignace Sossou and issued a complaint against him at the Court of First Instance in Cotonou. On 24 December, Ignace Sossou appeared before a judge. He acknowledged having written the tweets but not to having harassed the Public Prosecutor. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and received a fine.

I am concerned about the repressive climate and undue restrictions on the right to freedom of expression in Benin. The authorities must respect, protect, promote and fulfill the rights of journalists, bloggers, activists and human rights defenders, in accordance with the country’s international human rights obligations.

In view of the above, I urge you to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of Ignace Sossou; who is arbitrarily detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. I also urge you to ensure the amendment of Law No. 2017-20 of 20 April 2018 on the Digital Code to bring it into conformity with international standards on the right to freedom of expression, particularly by decriminalizing the publication of false information and online press offenses.

Yours sincerely,

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

MEMBERSHIP DRIVE: YOUR GIFT MATCHED