Outcry over jamming and hacking of radio stations and blocking of online news outlet

Expression

The online news outlet Les Pharaons was blocked on 12th November 2017, as reported by Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). According to a statement by the outlet, the management suspects political interference, as there are no reported technical reasons for the blackout. The statement further claims that the website host, based in France, received orders from an unnamed state official to suspend the site after an article on lawyer and politician Lionnel Agbo was published.  

Throughout November, several radio stations experienced jamming and hacking of their frequencies. On 6th November, radio Capp FM's frequency was hacked, with a parasite radio taking over the frequency during an emission in which unionist Laurent Métognon was speaking. This followed a similar case in which the frequency of Soleil FM was jammed and intermittently taken over by a pirate radio station since mid October. Several actors, including members of parliament, have criticised the national media regulator (HAAC) of being incapable of resolving the issue. During a press conference on 15th November, the Front pour le Sursaut Patriotique - a movement of the political opposition, unions and associations created in March 2017 - said that the above-mentioned incidents and other recent incidents, such as the suspension of the magazine Autre Afrique's website and the prohibition of TV programme "100% Bénin" on Canal 3, constitute a serious threat to freedom of expression and access to information in the country. These are in addition to previous violations of freedom of expression and the press that include the suspension of four media outlets by the HAAC in November 2016.

Peaceful Assembly

On 2nd October 2017, the President of Benin issued a decree to officially lift the ban on activities of all student associations, federations and unions, after the approval of the decree by the Council of Ministers earlier on 26th July. The decree comes six months after the Constitutional Court’s decision to render the October 2016 ban “null and void”.Civil society actors welcomed the decree that restores citizens’ and associations' rights to peaceful assembly.

On 20th October, Beninese professional associations organised a peaceful demonstration in Cotonou to demand more rights for workers. Although the initial itinerary was modified by the mayor of the city, trade union representatives held the march to denounce the low purchasing power of the population, the "parody of social dialogue", as well as the imprisonment of a trade union leader, among other issues.