Dutch journalist accused of espionage in Benin
Dutch journalist Olivier van Beemen and his Benin colleague Flore Nobime were detained for four days in Benin on suspicion of espionage, Follow the Money reports. They were investigating conservation organization African Parks at the time. They were eventually released thanks to diplomatic pressure. Van Beemen got deported.
The two journalists investigated African Parks, funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery and the European Union, among others, in January and February this year. They traveled to northern Benin, a region hit by jihadist violence, where they interviewed people who live near the Pendjari National Park, managed by African Parks.
The police arrested Nobime and Van Beemen for a "thorough identity check" in the town of Tanguieta. They ended up spending four days in custody on espionage charges. Eventually, the police informed them that the proceedings against them were being dropped.
"The diplomatic pressure worked," Van Beemen said to Follow the Money. He had help from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Dutch journalists' association NVJ. Nobimve was released from custody. Van Beemen was deported.
Benin long had a reputation as a West African model democracy with a high degree of press freedom. But the country has been rapidly degenerating into an authoritarian state since Prince Talon took power in 2016.