“This award is not truly good news for our country,” said Ferdinand Ayité, the Togolese winner of the International Press Freedom Award presented on Thursday evening (November 16, 2023) by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in New York.
The CPJ honored journalists who “courageously defended freedom of expression despite attacks, threats, and imprisonments.”
“Beyond the personal satisfaction, indeed, this award is not a positive signal for our country,” believes Ferdinand Ayité. “In our country, many journalists are increasingly persecuted, and the independent press is going through quite difficult times…At this moment when I receive this award, there are journalists still in prison, two years after our ordeal that ended in the death of our colleagues and fellow detainee, Joël Egah”.
“Today, I am in exile with my editor-in-chief, and our publications are suspended. Before us, there was Carlos Kétohou, who went into exile. So, the warning signs are flashing red in Togo regarding press freedom. And it’s quite alarming. There’s a kind of slow death of independent press through various methods; either through administrative harassment, tax harassment, or the use of justice to silence journalists. Therefore, this award is not truly good news for our country.”
Journalist Ferdinand Ayité was arrested on December 10, 2021, after accusing two government members of corruption. He was sentenced on March 15, 2023, along with a colleague, to three years in prison and a fine of three million CFA francs (approximately 4,900 USD) for ‘outrages against representatives of public authority’ and ‘dissemination of false information.’ Both appealed this decision but had to flee the country for their safety.