News / Africa

Togo Press Freedom Under Attack

A policeman gestures at a journalist during a sit-in near the presidency to protest against a new media law in Lome, Togo, March 14, 2013.
A policeman gestures at a journalist during a sit-in near the presidency to protest against a new media law in Lome, Togo, March 14, 2013.
Jennifer Lazuta
Togo's Constitutional Court has rejected an amendment to a media law that would have given a state regulator authority to shut down media outlets without a court order. Despite this promising win for local journalists, international watchdog groups say press freedom in Togo continues to decline.

Freedom of the press is legally guaranteed in Togo. International watchdog groups say, however, that these rights are often ignored by the government, and that many journalists work in a stifled - and sometimes violent - media environment.

Mohamed Keita, Africa Advocacy Coordinator for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said Togo’s state-run media regulatory agency was originally created as an independent body to protect the rights of the media.  But, he says the High Authority of Broadcasting and Communications (HAAC) has since become a censorship tool for the government.

“It has been a consistent pattern for a number of years now where journalists [in Togo] are constantly targeted, especially frontline journalists covering demonstrations," said Keita. "Also, for a number of years now, the media regulatory agency has at times used its power to down certain radio stations or even ban certain critical journalists from the airwaves because of their critical commentary.”

Keita said there have been many instances of media outlets being shut down for vague reasons and there are often allegations of security forces attacking and imprisoning journalists without cause.

Injuries among journalists

Most recently, there were reports of three journalists being injured by security forces during a peaceful demonstration on March 14. The journalists were protesting what they considered to be a “repressive” amendment to a media law, in which the government gave the HAAC sweeping powers to withdraw licenses, shut down publications and confiscate equipment without a court order.  

Keita said that, in such cases, security forces are usually not punished.

“We see this pattern that continues where journalists are consistently injured or beaten up by members of the security forces and no one is ever held to account," he said. "So this impunity afforded to members of the security forces continues to encourage, we believe, this type of behavior.”

But not everyone thinks press freedom is a problem in Togo.

Jacques Djakouti, President of Togo’s National Council of Media Managers, said it is true that journalists do their work freely.

"We have a variety of radio stations, newspapers, and television stations. People can express their ideas and engage in debates in the media," he said. "Yes, sometimes, some of our colleagues have been implicated for their work. But these things are always worked out. The laws protect them. Press freedom in Togo is not in any danger." 

Agustin Amegan works for the SOS Association for Journalists in Danger in Togo, and is the director of a local newspaper, Canard Independent. He said that in theory, freedom of the press does exist in Togo.

"People have the right to say what they wish and there is much diversity in media outlets," he said. "But in reality there also exists authorities who stifle these freedoms. Many times, the fear of punishment influences what journalists publish and say."

A step toward improving press freedom was taken last week, when the Constitutional Court repealed the amendment that gave the HAAC sweeping powers.

Keita said the National Assembly must now return to the drawing board and draft a new law.

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs