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Accueil Others More appeals for Media Law amendment in Togo following journalists' release

More appeals for Media Law amendment in Togo following journalists’ release

Loïc Lawson and Anani Sossou, journalists detained at Lomé’s civil prison since November 15, 2023, were released on Friday, December 1, 2023, as reported at the beginning of the weekend. While there are no formal contemplations or discussions, the release of the journalists has triggered a surge in appeals for a swift amendment to Togo’s media laws.

Accused of “defamation, damaging the minister’s honor, and incitement to revolt” for sharing (presumably false) information on social media regarding the theft of a substantial amount from the residence of State Minister Kodjo Adedzé, the two colleagues had been in prison since November 15, 2023. Although released this Friday, they are now under judicial control, required to appear before the judge every first Monday of the month. This measure has been criticized as excessive by Honoré Adontui, president of the Togolese press union, as reported by RFI.

“We are pleased with this outcome, albeit minimally. We thank all those who contributed to this resolution. Our satisfaction is tempered by a similar provisional release in the case of our colleagues Ferdinand Ayité, Isidore Kouwonou, and the late Joël Egah, which unfortunately led to subsequent developments, including convictions and prison sentences. Hence, we urge for our colleagues to be completely cleared of charges, bringing us greater joy and signaling the end of this matter. Additionally, we call for the protection and promotion of press freedom, emphasizing that no journalist should be imprisoned in the course of their profession, aligning with the preservation of Togo’s image,” stated Honoré Adontui.

Following the announcement of the journalists’ release, Gerry Taama, a Member of the Togolese Parliament, expressed concern on his Facebook page, saying, “I observed in this case that the journalists themselves do not support each other sufficiently. It’s a shame. As I already said in another publication, we need to review certain articles of the press code. Otherwise, the social media reflex is so tempting these days that other journalists will find themselves in the same situation”.

The imprisonment of these journalists elicited global reactions, with press freedom organizations urging the immediate release of the journalists and advocating for a revision of Togo’s press code to better protect media professionals.

As a reminder, while the 2004 Press Code decriminalized press offenses in Togo, the current version excludes social media, leaving online publishers exposed to potential prison sentences.

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