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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid