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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora