Jean-Baptiste Hounkonnou, publication director of the Beninese independent daily Le Nouvel Essor, has been granted a provisional release after spending six weeks in jail on criminal defamation charges. On April 27, Benin's Court of Appeal granted Hounkonnou's request for provisional release, and he was freed the same day, according to sources. He is due to reappear in court on May 27 and could face jail time again if he loses the appeal.

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN is disturbed at the prison sentence handed down to journalist Jean-Baptiste Hounkonnou on 16 March 2004 for "defamation". Hounkonnou, the publication director of the daily "Le Nouvel Essor", was sent to Parakou (Centre-Est) prison immediately after the trial to begin serving his sentence. The verdict stems from a December 2003 "Le Nouvel Essor" article in which a woman was accused of adultery.

The government of Benin has set up a national child protection committee to oversee the fight against child trafficking and the work of child protection organisations. The 15-member committee includes the representatives of several child welfare organisations, the government and the police. It was set up last Friday for an initial period of 12 months.

The government of Benin has put on trial 27 of its own judges on charges of embezzling millions of dollars of state funds. They form part of a group of 99 court and finance ministry officials charged with illegally pocketing more than US$15 million of state funds over a period of four years.

Benin should allocate at least 5 per cent of its GDP for social priorities to promote human development and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to a new UNDP report by a team of national experts. The Benin National Human Development Report 2003, launched recently in Cotonou, the capital, focuses on financing for human development and finds that public spending on social priorities -- including basic education and health care, nutrition and water supply and more