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Four journalists arrested in four days

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is demanding the release of four Beninese journalists, the first to have been detained since 2004. Until these detentions, the country had shown a marked improvement in the state of the freedom of the press.

"These arrests do not represent a fair or measured response to possible factual errors committed by the journalists. On the contrary, they represent a real danger for democracy. They have broken what had been an existing consensus in Bénin since 2004 by effectively suspending all incarcerations of journalists. Although it fell short of actual decriminalization, this moratorium at least encouraged the renewal of positive relations between the authorities and the press, even through the difficult presidential election period. The era of defiance and repression seemed to have been consigned to the past. It would be very disappointing news indeed if the government has decided unilaterally that this is no longer to be the case," declared Reporters Without Borders.

"In addition, by-passing the media's own regulatory bodies, despite the excellent job they have been doing over the recent years, runs the risk of undermining their well-deserved authority. In a democracy, even if newspapers make mistakes, the judicial police have no business taking control of the press." added the organization.

Virgile Linkpon and Fulric Richard Couao-Zotti, respectively publication director and managing editor of the private newspaper "La Diaspora de Sabbat", were arrested on 15 September 2006 by the judicial police.

They were held in custody over the weekend, made to appear before the public prosecutor on 18 September and charged with "dissemination of false news and libel against the head of the state". The two journalists were prosecuted following the publication on 14 September of an article titled: "Ill Wind Blows No Good - Boni Yayi's Elder Son Demented". They are currently not allowed any visitors. The editor-in-chief of the newspaper, whose identity is not known, was also arrested on 18 September.

Cyrille Saïzonou, publication director of the daily newspaper "Djakpata", has also been arrested by the judicial police. According to Cotonou journalists interviewed by Reporters Without Borders, he was questioned about the publication of the 20 June article about the alleged wrongdoings of the national police.

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