Investigative journalist Ignace Sossou will remain in jail in Benin after a judge postponed his appeal on Tuesday.
Sossou, who has been in prison four months, arrived at the appeals court in Cotonou to contest a December 2019 decision that jailed him for 18 months under the country’s controversial digital media law.
In December, Sossou accurately posted quotes on Twitter and Facebook from a speech by local prosecutor, Mario Mètonou. Sossou’s posts were correct, according to an audio recording of the speech, but Mètonou filed charges under a law that criminalizes “false information.” Police arrested Sossou days later at sunrise.
At Tuesday’s appeal, Sossou spoke briefly to the judge and again denied misquoting the prosecutor, according to BeninWebTV.
Sossou’s Beninese lawyer, Robert Dossou, offered to provide the judge with documents from the French media development agency that hosted the speech to confirm the accuracy of Sossou’s posts.
Lawyers for the prosecutor objected, however, and claimed they had no notice or time to study the additional files, according to BeninWebTV.
The judge ordered that Sossou’s case be adjourned. Both sides will return on Tuesday, May 5.
On Monday, a collection of free press advocates and news organizations, including the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, asked Benin authorities to release Sossou.
“Journalist Ignace Sossou should never have been arrested, but his ongoing detention amid the coronavirus pandemic makes his release from prison in Benin even more urgent,” said Angela Quintal, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Africa program coordinator. “Now is the time for Beninese authorities to put health and safety concerns above politics and ensure that Ignace Sossou does not remain in a jail cell amid the COVID-19 crisis.”
ICIJ collaborated with Sossou as part of the Panama Papers and West Africa Leaks investigations.
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