Togo Authorities Arrest Three Journalists Over Online Broadcast
Authorities in the West African country of Togo arrested three journalists for taking part in a discussion broadcasted end of November live on YouTube about the alleged involvement of two ministers in corruption, the CPJ reported on Monday.
Ferdinand Ayité, 10 days after the broadcast. The publication is a member center of OCCRP.Togo national police summoned and arrested the publication director of the privately owned L’Alternative newspaper,
A day after the arrest, the police summoned also the director of the privately owned Fraternité newspaper, Joël Egah, and the editor in chief of L’Alternative, Isidore Kouwonou. Egah was then also arrested while Kouwonou was released under judicial supervision.
CPJ stated that the journalists’ lawyer, Elom Kpade, said Ayité and Egah were accused of “contempt of authorities” and “propagation of falsehoods,” while Kouwonou was accused of complicity in these two crimes.
According to the law, a person proven guilty of “contempt against representatives of public authority” may be punished with up to two years in jail and a fine of US$1,722. In addition, sharing fake news may be punished with up to two years in jail and a fine of $3,445.
However, Kpade stated that there is no legal justification for Ayité’s arrest, because press offenses are “decriminalized” in Togo.
Since police arrested him without previously showing any documentation, the lawyer described in a YouTube video the process as an “abuse of authority.”
The president of the local media association Togolese Press Patronage, Isidore Akollor, said that “grievances brought against journalists in the exercise of their profession must be assessed with regard to the provisions of the Press Code and not the Penal Code.”
The government of Togo suspended L’Alternative twice in the past two years: in February 2021 and in April 2020. In addition, Ayité’s phone number appeared on the Pegasus Project list of those allegedly selected for potential spyware surveillance.