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Benin29 April 2004

Journalist granted provisional release

Reporters without borders applauds the provisional release of Jean-Baptiste Hounkonnou, publication director of the independent daily "Le Nouvel Essor", one and a half months after his imprisonment.

"This is a laudable decision for the Beninese government, as this incident had quite clearly tarnished the reputation of a country that has traditionally been respectful of journalists’ work," the organisation said.

On 16 March 2004, Hounkonnou was sent to Parakou prison, in the eastern central region of Benin, after receiving a six-month sentence for "defamation". He was charged with publishing an article, in December 2003, in which a woman was accused of adultery. The decision was not only in direct opposition to United Nations recommendations condemning the punishment of press infractions with prison terms, but was particularly disturbing coming from a country that has long been a model example of free expression in Western Africa. In fact, there have been no instances of journalists being detained since General Mathieu Kérékou’s return to power in 1996.

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