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Four journalists assaulted and detained by police

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF condemns the assaults by police officers on Etienne Houessou, publication director of the newspaper "Le Télégramme", and three of his colleagues on 1 April 2003.

"Whatever their mistake was, nothing can justify the inappropriate detention of these journalists and the acts of violence committed against them. In this country, which views itself as a democratic model in West Africa, legal provisions exist preventing the assault or detention of citizens for their writings. We hope that this is an isolated incident and ask that you punish those responsible for these violent acts," Robert Ménard, the organisation's secretary-general, said in a letter to Minister of Communications and the Promotion of New Technologies Gaston Zossou.

Three journalists from "Le Télégramme" were arrested, physically assaulted and taken to Cotonou's central police station on 1 April. Houessou, who had fled earlier, went to the police station a few hours later, after police officers had assured him that that he would not be physically assaulted. Nonetheless, the publication director was beaten up and detained until 7:00 p.m. (local time).

The journalists are accused of publishing several news items containing misleading information and insults directed at National Police (DGPN) Director-General Raymond Fadonougbo and Police Chief Francis Awagbè Béhanzin. The DGPN's spokesperson had previously summoned Houessou in early February, issued him a warning and accused him of violating the Beninese press's code of ethics.

The Union of Private Press Journalists of Benin (Union des Journalistes de la presse privée du Bénin, UJPBO) declared Monday 7 April a "day without media" to protest against the national police's abusive behaviour.

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