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Togo: Journalists Rally to Protect Free Press

On August 6, 2011, journalists in the West African country of Togo rallied in the streets of capital Lomé [fr] to protest against the threats that their colleagues received recently.  The rally was launched on August 3, by the association ‘SOS Journalistes en Danger’ (SOS Journalists in Danger).

Banner of the 'SOS Journalistes en Danger' Association in Togo

Banner of the 'SOS Journalistes en Danger' Association in Togo

The week prior to the event, several media professionals in the association warned against threats sent to a group of Togolese journalists that were believed to be “critical of the power in place.”

According to Ferdinand Ayité, the president of the association, the threats originated from the ANR, the National Intelligence Agency. The details of the threats, are reported on Fabbi Kouassi ‘s blog as follows [fr]:

..porter atteinte à l’intégrité physique des journalistes, notamment par les moyens d’accidents déguisés, les empoisonnements, et des affaires montées de toute pièce.

..aimed at physically harming the journalists, specifically via faked accidents, poisoning and made-up stories.

According to leaders of the association, the threats were later confirmed by an anonymous letter, presumably written by an agent of the ANR and addressed to the journalists who already were targeted on July 21.

The rally was supported by human rights advocacy group, unions, some political parties and various local newpapers.

In a joint statement, the UJIT (Union of Independent Journalists of Togo), the CONAPP (National Council of Press Writers) and the OTM (Togolese Media Observatory) have called upon CNDH, the National Comission for Human Rights, to open an investigation on the matter and encourage their threatened colleagues to go to court so that light can be shed on the issue.

 Print media in Togo via Godwin Afedo

Print media in Togo via Godwin Afedo

On Togoforum, a review of the past events [fr] details the timeline of the issue and the procedure that the association followed:

Les responsables de l’Union des Journalistes Indépendants du Togo (UJIT), le Conseil National des Patrons de Presse (CONAPP) et l’Observatoire Togolais des Médias (OTM) ont rencontré :
– Dans la journée du Mercredi 27 Juillet 2011, le Ministre de la Sécurité et de la Protection Civile et celui de la Communication
-Dans la journée du Vendredi 29 Juillet 2011, le Président de la HAAC au siège de l’Institution,
-Dans la journée du Lundi 1er Août 2011, le Président de la CNDH, le Ministre de la Communication une seconde fois, la Ministre des Droits de l’Homme, de la Consolidation de la démocratie et de la Formation Civique et le Directeur de la Communication de la Présidence de la République du Togo à leurs bureaux.
[..]
Ces responsables ont au cours de ces différentes rencontres exprimé leur inquiétude sur les menaces qui pèseraient sur certains de leurs confrères avant d’inviter les Autorités à réellement s’impliquer dans la sécurité et la protection de tous les journalistes.

The leaders of the UJIT, CONAPP and OTM met with:
-The Minister of Communication and the Minister of Security on July 27
– The President of the HAAC on July 29
– The President of the CNDH, the Minister of the Communication ( for a second time) the Minister of the Human Rights, Democracy Consolidation, and Civil Formation and the Director of Communication for the Office of the President of Togo. 

[..] During these conversations, the leaders expressed their worries regarding the threats aimed at their colleagues and invited the authority to commit and do more for the protection of all journalists

The objective of the rally was to denounce the clear abuse against the freedom of press. They intend to organize more rallies in the coming days to ensure the protection of free press in Togo. In addition to this issue, the ANR has been implicated in a wave of other human rights violations.

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