30 March 2011

Critical radio stations closed down with red tape excuses

Radio stations and newspapers in the capital of Togo suspended their normal activities for a day in March in protest against three radio stations having been shut down since December, report the Media Foundation for West Africa and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Following the media group SOS Journaliste en danger's declaration of a "No Media Day", radio stations only played music on 10 March, and most newspapers, with the exception of state-owned daily "Togo Presse" and the privately-owned "Forum de la Semaine", did not make it to the newsstands, says MFWA.

Along with sit-ins and protest marches, it was the latest campaign tactic used to try to save the radio stations X-Solaire, Metropolys and Providence, which were closed down on 29 December 2010 by the Posts and Telecommunications' Regulatory Authority (ART&P). ART&P allege they were operating illegally because they did not have the required registration documents and standard broadcasting equipment.

SOS Journaliste en danger said the closures are an attempt by the authorities to muzzle the stations, which were deemed critical of the administration of President Faure Gnassingbé.

MFWA reports that since the closure, station staff who have been trying to obtain the required documents have been met with "delay tactics from authorities."

MFWA and RSF report that a fourth radio station has since been closed by ART&P. The regulatory body said Carré Jeune, a community radio station offering entertainment programmes, did not respect professional standards.

In support of the campaign, RSF wrote to territorial administration minister Pascal Bodjona today asking him to explain the slowness of the administrative procedures.

"Considerations of a political nature should not give rise to conflicts of interest between Togo's governing class and media," the letter said. "On the contrary, the role of the authorities is to preserve freedom of expression and to guarantee the constitution."

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