Togo journalists condemn punitive new law

Nov 12, 2015 Togolese journalists recently moved to criticize the country’s parliament after it passed a new provision in the law that threatens imprisonment for anyone found guilty of flouting media regulations

The journalists, who have long accused government authorities of trying to clamp down on free speech, said the laws undermine existing regulations.

The new revision states that publishing false or fabricated material or falsely attributing third parties could lead to imprisonment of up to 2 years and a fine of more than $3,000.

Commenting on the new law,   Giles Loti, a resident of Lome said:

“It’s completely unacceptable and threatening freedom in this country. There are torturers roaming and moving about freely in the country and corruption with money being diverted here and there, but these people were never punished. Now, journalists who are here to educate the population, to give their opinion, and to lead investigaltions are being prevented from informing us of how things are going in the country. I find this to be unacceptable and a threat to freedom,”

In 2004, a law was adopted that suppressed criminalization of offenses by the media, however, the new penal code, if applied will restore the process.

Innocent Sas Gawou, a radio journalist said:

“This worries us because since 2004, our press has had a code with many advantages, including the decriminalization of press offenses. We feel that the government is now retracting the agreement that the press code provided and this is what all Togolese journalists are criticizing,”

Sylvio Combey said:

“They (the authorities) take measures to scare people and to make sure that even if information doesn’t belong to you, that you don’t have the courage to share it. We believe that this is the case with our leaders, so there is reason to worry. It’s freedom of speech that suffers. When you’re a professional journalist, you respect standards. But all those who distribute information, citizen journalists, bloggers who report information exactly the way they hear it, all these people could end up in jail tomorrow,”

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