News / Africa

Togo Journalist Injured in Apparent Attack

Jennifer Lazuta
A Togolese photojournalist and videographer says he was attacked and injured in retaliation for images he published. International monitoring groups call it an "assassination attempt" and say it appears to be the latest effort by authorities to silence journalists who speak out against the government.

Frédéric Koffi Attipou was injured in an apparently "deliberate" hit-and -run accident on Wednesday.

"I was returning from church on my motorbike, when two vehicles approached me from either side," he said, speaking by telephone from his hospital bed in Togo. "On my left, on my right, the vehicles converged on me at the same time. They rolled down the window and accused me publishing photographs that tarnished the image of the country. Then they hit me.  I fell off and sustained injuries to my face and body. My camera was destroyed."

This is not the first time Attipou has been attacked. He was assaulted in March 2012 for taking photographs of security forces during a demonstration.

Despite promises by the security minister to prosecute that case, the officers involved in the assault have not been disciplined.

Sylvio Combey, the president of the African Network of African Journalists, says this latest attack has made many journalists in Togo concerned for their safety.

"We are saying this was a deliberate attack," he said. "They assaulted him because he sent some images abroad. This is a problem because the press here in Togo is always under threat. Our colleague has suffered because he was doing his job. We are all now scared."

Freedom of the press is legally guaranteed in Togo, but international monitoring groups say that the government often ignores these rights.

Mohamed Keita, the Africa Advocacy Coordinator for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, says said that media outlets in Togo are often shut down for vague reasons, and that there have been many recent allegations of security forces attacking and imprisoning journalists without cause.

"For many years now, [Attipou] has been documenting protests and the violent dispersal of protests by security forces," he said. "He has been behind many of the videos and photos that have been published... The question arises as to whether this is an act of intimidation sponsored by the Togolese government against the journalists who have been documenting the often abuses and brutal responses by security forces."

Togolese authorities declined to comment to VOA on the latest hit-and-run incident and subsequent allegations.

Keita said that many journalists on the ground are now fighting back against authorities in the region.

The Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists have both called for an investigation into what they call an  "assassination attempt."

So far, no action has been taken.

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