The sub regional press freedom watchdog, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Thursday welcomed the presidential pardon granted to Berthe Cakpossa, the director of a privately-owned television station, and Lionel Agbo, a former government official.
MFWA, in a statement signed by its Executive Director, Prof. Kwame Karikari, disclosed that Cakpossa, the director of Canal 3 TV, and Agbo, a former civil servant, were recently pardoned by President Thomas Yayi Boni.
The two were said to have been tried and convicted on 16 January by a district court in Cotonou, Benin's capital, after being accused of 'offending the Head of State.'
Cakpossa was given a three-month imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 CFA francs (about US$ 1,000), while Agbo got six months in jail.
'The president in a statement issued on 31 January, declared his decision to withdraw his suit against Cakpossa and Agbo and pardoned them,' the MFWA statement noted.
It added that 'The MFWA, welcoming the action of the President to overturn the conviction, calls on the authorities to initiate processes to expunge laws that criminalise freedom of speech from the law books.'
The Canal 3 TV Director was accused of airing entirely a press conference organised by Agbo, former presidential spokesperson.
According to MFWA, during the press conference, Agbo reportedly accused some key presidential staffers of engaging in corrupt practices.
President Boni, who was said to have been angered by Agbo’s comments and Canal 3’s broadcast, later lodged a complaint at the Benin's High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC), the media regulatory body, accusing the television station of “disturbing public order” and requesting that sanctions be meted out to the channel.