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Media regulator restricts media coverage of elections

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 16 June 2010, Benin's media regulatory body, the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC), banned the media from publishing or broadcasting what it described as "premature" political campaign materials on the country's 2011 general elections.

In a communiqué, HAAC said it would close down or withdraw the operating license of any media organization that violates this directive.

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent reported that the HAAC ban would remain in force until 15 days before the elections when the Electoral Commission is expected to officially declare the campaign open.

Political advertising slots, photographs and manifestos of the various candidates have all been banned from the media.

The correspondent said the directive further stated that in the case of audiovisual media, only experts and competent professionals will handle political broadcasts and phone-in programmes.

Meanwhile, the directive has received widespread condemnation. In a statement, the Benin National Newspaper Owners Association (PNPB) described the HAAC decision as arbitrary and inimical to media freedom, which is the foundation of any democracy. The PNPB said HAAC had no powers to sanction or close down any media.

Two other organizations, the National Council of Owners of the Print and Electronic Media of Benin (CNPA-Benin) and the Union of Media Practitioners of Benin (UPMB), have also written to the HAAC and stated that the decision would restrict media practice in the country.

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