This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 13 March 2020.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and more than 120 media outlets and journalists in West Africa are publishing an unprecedented joint op-ed today calling for the release of Ignace Sossou, a Beninese journalist still being held after two and a half months in prison although the proof of his innocence has been available for several weeks.
Arrested in Cotonou on 20 December after tweeting about the statements that Benin’s prosecutor-general made at a workshop organized by the French media development agency CFI, Sossou was sentenced to 18 months in prison four days later on a charge of “harassment by means of electronic communications.”
But, as today’s joint op-ed points out, “anyone can now verify from the audio recording and transcript that the imprisoned journalist reported the statements accurately.”
The recording and transcript of the prosecutor’s comments released by CFI on 2 January clearly show that Sossou quoted what he said word for word, without distorting his statements in any way. An investigative reporter and head of production at Bénin Web TV, Sossou is nonetheless still being held after 84 days in prison and his appeal is still waiting to be heard.
“This show of support by West African media and journalists speaks to a deep concern for media personnel in the region,” said Assane Diagne, the director of RSF’s West Africa office. “A journalist in an ECOWAS member country has for the first time been jailed for using social media to report comments that really were made, and for serving the public interest by so doing. He has been jailed for doing his job.”
“Two and a half months after this journalist was convicted and jailed, and with everyone able to see that he committed no crime, it is hard to understand why his appeal has not yet been heard so that he can be released,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “As the news organizations and journalists who signed this op-ed point out, the shock waves from this journalist’s detention have been felt far beyond Benin’s borders. A journalist should not be jailed for three tweets quoting a public figure. His release should be a priority for the authorities.”
Benin is ranked 96th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
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Source: MEDIA FEED