Ignace Sossou in Benin: Fight Against Fake News Gone Wrong
Internet Sans Frontières welcomes the release of Beninese journalist Ignace Sossou. On December 19, 2019, authorities imprisoned him and sentenced him for “electronic harassment”. He had transcribed the words of the prosecutor of Cotonou, who warned against using fake news laws to muzzle the press. Appeal judges reduced the sentence of Sossou in May 2020.
The Sossou affair stirred reactions in Africa and beyond. It symbolizes the weaponization of the fight against disinformation in Africa.
Weaponization of the fight VS fake news
A letter from the French cooperation agency CFI Médias served as the main incriminating evidence against Ignace Sossou. After Internet Without Borders published a press release, the French agency recognized its questionable role in the conviction of Ignace Sossou. CFI helps governments and the press in West and Central Africa to combat disinformation.
Ignace Sossou should have been free a long time ago. Let’s remain extremely vigilant. Sossou’s case may be the first in a long line of attacks on press freedom in the name of fighting fake news, said Julie Owono, Executive Director of Internet Without Borders.
Disinformation and terrorism have inspired a legislative inflation, to help AfricanGovernments face these threats. These vague laws have opened the door to abuse, including against the press. The case of Ignace Sossou in Benin reminds us of the urgency to fight these oppressive laws.