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

Obama Pledges 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Burials

Country is improving at rapid response to remote, isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace Christmas precisely because of its non-religious glamor and commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid