by Jean Damascène Hakuzimana

President Patrice Talon of Benin has ordered the shut down of online media, in a move widely seen as a way to silence opposition ahead of the 2021 presidential election, according to Agence France Presse (AFP).

The Benin administration views Africa’s flourishing online news industry as dangerous to the country. They allege the news reported is not properly vetted, and therefore must be shut down. Benin had been hailed as one of the most democratic states in West Africa until business mogul Patrice Talon ascended to power in 2016 and began taking steps toward what appears to be the installation of an authoritarian regime.

The African continent is well known to stifle the media. In 2020, Reporters Without Borders ranked Benin 113 out of 180 on its press freedom index. Cabo Verde is ranked 25; Ghana and South Africa are 30 and 31 respectively. These three are the most highly ranked African countries in the Reporters Without Borders list. Norway is at number one and the United States is 45. At the end of the list are Djibouti and Eritrea, ranked 176 and 178 out of 180 countries. According to Reporters Without Borders. eight African journalists were killed in 2019. So far, three have been killed in 2020. Egypt has 28 journalists in prison, topping African countries for journalists imprisoned in 2020.