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Nationwide news blackout in Togo to protest new media law

(MFWA/IFEX) - On March 12, 2013, media organisations and journalists in Togo embarked on a nationwide news blackout to protest a new law that was recently passed by the country's parliament.

The new legislation, passed on February 19 by the Togolese parliament, grants the statutory media regulatory body, the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC), discretionary powers to impose sanctions on the media without recourse to judicial processes.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent reported that — with the exception of the state-owned newspaper and three other pro-government newspapers — no other newspapers appeared on the newsstands [on March 12]. Radio stations also stopped their normal programming and resorted to playing only music.

The blackout is the first act in three days of protest against the passage of the law. As part of the ongoing protests, journalists have planned to wear red clothes or red headbands on March 13 and demonstrate in front of the presidential palace on March 14.

The new law is said to contravene Article 26 of the Togolese Constitution which states that “the media cannot be subjected to any preliminary authorisation, be cautioned or censored or other barriers. No publication shall be banned from circulation except by virtue of a court decision.”

The MFWA urges journalists not to relent on their efforts to have this law withdrawn, and reiterates its call on the Togolese government to improve freedom of expression and media rights in the country.

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