13 August 2003

ARTICLE 19 URGES SCRAPPING OF "DRACONIAN" LAWS


ARTICLE 19 has released a new report calling on the Togolese government to repeal laws introduced in 2002 that have been actively used to silence government criticism. The report says the laws ? which prohibit false news, criminalise defamation and require the licensing of journalists ? violate international standards on freedom of expression and should be scrapped immediately.

These laws "are a serious threat to independent critical journalism in Togo and have no place in a democratic society. We recommend they be repealed and any criminal convictions against journalists under them be quashed," says ARTICLE 19.

Signed into law on 25 September 2002, the 1998 Press and Communications Law (Press Law Amendments) and the 2002 Law on Press Cards introduced amendments to already harsh legislation, ARTICLE 19 says.

They strengthened the existing ban on spreading "false news," provided draconian prison sentences for defamation and insult, including of the President and other State institutions, and prohibited foreign ownership of the media. They also required all news and political affairs publications to employ a minimum number of licensed "professional journalists," notes ARTICLE 19.

Since the beginning of 2003, authorities have actively used the laws to arrest and detain journalists whose reports were critical of the government. In March, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported increased restrictions on the independent media, including the shutting down of two private radio stations accused of airing interviews with opposition party members.

And in June, three journalists were arrested and charged with "attempting to publish false information" about alleged beatings of individuals by police and ruling party supporters, CPJ notes [See http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/52157/].
CPJ calls Togo one of the most repressive places for journalists in West Africa, with authorities routinely censoring private publications, jailing reporters and introducing laws with harsher penalties for press offenses.

ARTICLE 19's full report is available here: http://www.article19.org/docimages/1651.doc.
For more information on free expression in Togo, visit: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/65/


Togo
 
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