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Togo Restricts Radio Programs Following Alleged Coup Attempt

Authorities in Togo have banned all radio call-in shows, following the arrest of the president's brother in connection with an alleged plot to overthrow the government.

Togo's High Authority for Communications has banned all interactive radio and television broadcasts after people started calling in to voice their opinions about last week's alleged coup attempt.

Former Defense Minister Kpatcha Gnassingbe was arrested on a warrant that says he is one of the principal organizers of a plan to take power while his brother, who is Togo's president, was on a trip to China. President Faure Gnassingbe canceled that trip when the intelligence services of a foreign country warned of the coup plot.

The trouble between the Gnassingbe brothers has dominated Togolese media, but with the communication ministry's decision, news coverage will no longer include the opinions of everyday people calling-in to radio and TV shows.

Newspaper publisher Dimas Dzikodo says the move violates Togo's constitution.

Dzikodo says the freedoms of expression, press, and opinion are guaranteed under Togolese law. He says prohibiting all interactive programming - including those discussing sports, economics, and social issues - is not normal. Dzikodo says serious events are going on in Togo and people are not being given the chance to talk about it.

Kpatcha Gnassingbe says he is the victim of an assassination attempt by security forces who came to his compound to question him about the alleged coup plot. Troops loyal to the former defense minister held off those security forces for several hours before finally surrendering.

Five army officers and several civilians were arrested. Kpatcha Gnassingbe was detained last Wednesday as he left the U.S. Embassy in Lome after being denied refuge.

National Human Rights Commission president Koffi Kounte visited those arrested and says they are being well treated.

Kounte says all of those arrested looked well and told him they are not malnourished. He says Kpatcha Gnassingbe was receiving medical treatment before his arrest and his physician is continuing that treatment in prison. Some of those detained have been allowed family visits. Some have not. Kounte says he is asking the judiciary to allow family visits for all of those arrested and to improve their hygiene and sleeping conditions.

Kpatcha Gnassingbe remains an influential member of the ruling Togolese People's Party as a parliamentarian for the northern Kara District. But party secretary general Solitoki Esso says the party is solidly behind the president.

Esso says the party condemns the attempt to destabilize the state. He says the party is siding with the president in this difficult time and encourages him to continue to pursue with determination necessary reforms including the consolidation of democracy and legal reforms toward national reconciliation.

Esso says the ruling party congratulates and thanks Togolese security services for their vigilance and for again preventing a military coup as they have shown their determination to defend and preserve institutions of state.

Speaking publicly about the alleged coup attempt for the first time late Friday, President Faure Gnassingbe said those plotting against him sought to replace the force of law with the law of force.

He did not mention his brother by name but said he has a profound attachment to the virtues of family, so you can imagine how the revelation of these actions has touched him.

Faure Gnassingbe took power in 2005 following the death of his father, the long-time Togolese leader Gnassingbe Eyadema. Following international criticism of his seizing power, Faure Gnassingbe briefly stepped down to contest an election that observers say was seriously flawed. He sacked his brother as defense minister in 2007. The president is expected to run for re-election next year.