Local retransmission of Radio France Internationale (RFI) was disrupted in Cotonou on the morning of 29 March just as it was broadcasting a phone-in programme focussing, on this occasion, on Bénin’s 13 March presidential election, the result of which is disputed by the opposition. Called “Appels sur l’actualité” and hosted by Juan Gomez, the programme is extremely popular in Africa.
According of the official figures, President Boni Yayi won the election outright with 53 per cent of the vote in the first round. The police used force to disperse opposition protests this week challenging the result.
Seydou Choubade, a reporter for the daily Le Nokoué, and Séverin Gandonou, a photographer with the daily 24 heures au Bénin, were attacked and injured by police while covering one of these demonstrations on 24 March.
“It is hard not to think that the disruption of RFI’s signal was deliberately engineered by the authorities,” Reporters Without Borders said. “RFI was cut in Bénin at the exact moment that a debate was to have been held about current events in Bénin. Did they want to prevent listeners from commenting about the election results, voicing their suspicions and expressing their anger to the outside world? We urge the government to explain this temporary suspension without delay.”
It is the second time in less than a year that the French international radio station’s broadcasts have been disrupted in Bénin. Local retransmission of RFI was suspended for half a day in August 2010 after it broadcasted a report by its Cotonou correspondent about a complaint against the president that opposition parliamentarians had brought before the high court.
The complaint concerned the alleged involvement of senior government officials in a case of embezzlement by a local NGO, ICC Services. Local retransmission of RFI resumed after the French ambassador interceded.