COTONOU (Reuters) - Benin's press regulator has suspended the main private newspaper Le Matinal for allegedly insulting President Boni Yayi, documents showed on Friday, triggering accusations of a media crackdown.
Le Matinal, which has frequently criticized the West African country's government, was ordered to stop printing pending a hearing - though the date of that session was not announced.
The government's audiovisual and communications authority said a number of articles mentioning the president and the government had broken several sections of the country's media code.
The order was criticized by other newspapers and by opposition politicians in a country that has a largely free press and is credited as a pioneer of multi-party democracy in Africa.
"It's dangerous to close an organ of the press. I think it's serious for Benin after all the democratic steps it has taken," Le Matinal's director of information, Fidele Nanga, told Reuters.
Boni was first elected the country neighboring Nigeria in 2006 but is due to step down next year under constitutional term limits.
One of the biggest issues in the campaign to succeed him will be reducing poverty and ensuring a fair distribution of the benefits of the cotton producer's growth, which the IMF has forecast at 5.5 percent this year and in 2016.
"The publication of the daily Le Matinal is suspended until a hearing of its director and the author of the incriminating articles by the high audiovisual and communications authority," said the document seen by Reuters.
The document was signed on Tuesday and the paper has not appeared since Wednesday.
(Reporting by Allegresse Sasse; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Andrew Heavens)