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Fears raised over muzzling of private broadcasting

23 February 2005 - IFEX Communiqué (The)

The Media Foundation for West Africa, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) are voicing concern over press freedom conditions in Togo, where at least ten privately-owned radio and television stations were closed by authorities for a week following the death of former President Gnassingbé Eyadéma.

Since 11 February 2005, authorities had shut down eight radio stations - Nana FM, Kanal FM, Radio Nostalgie, Radio Fréquence 1, Radio Carré Jeune, Radio Djabal'nour, Radio Lumière and Radio Zion - and two television stations - TV7 and Télévision Zion, citing allegations that the stations "incited the Togolese people to civil disobedience, hatred and revolt." According to RSF, they have now been allowed to broadcast again following negotiations between journalist associations and the government.

Local organisations, including the Togolese Media Watchdog (Observatoire togolais des médias, OTM) condemned the radio station shutdowns, saying the public needed access to news and information "at a moment when the nation is experiencing an unprecedented crisis."

CPJ says the stations were targeted for criticising the military's move to appoint the late president's son, Faure Gnassingbé, as leader. Although Parliament amended the constitution to legitimise the move, the change met with disapproval in the international community.

Before his death on 5 February, Gnassingbé Eyadema had ruled Togo with an iron fist for 38 years. His authoritarian policies led the European Union to suspend aid to Togo in 1993. In the past year, however, his government had begun to make moves toward democratic reform, including amending the press law to decriminalise defamation.

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