A journalist with the L’Alternative bi-weekly newspaper in Togo was assaulted in the line of duty on February 7, 2017 by a group of gendarmes who later arrested, handcuffed and forced him to delete the pictures he had taken at the scene of a land dispute.
According to the MFWA correspondent in Togo, the journalist, Robert Avotor, was reporting on a land dispute at Akato-Viépé, near the Togo-Ghana boarder, when the incident occurred.
The report says the gendarmes who had gone to enforce an eviction order, asked the curious crowd which had gathered at the scene, to leave. When the crowd disobeyed, the gendarmes threw tear gas to disperse them. As a journalist performing a legitimate and important public duty, Avotor thought the order did not apply to him, so he showed his press card to one of the officers. The officer reported to have retorted that “even with your identification vest, we don’t care.”
Just about that moment, a group of gendarmes arrested a young man and started beating him. As Atovor took out his phone to film the scene, one gendarme started hitting him with his fist. Soon, more gendarmes joined in the assault. The gendarmes handcuffed Atovor with his hands behind, and abused him for two hours, until he urinated on himself. Subsequently, the gendarmes took Avotor away to their post at Sagbado where they forced him to delete the pictures he had taken with his mobile phone, before he was released.
The Management of L’Alternative newspaper have indicated in a press statement that they are considering legal action against the gendarmes, particularly, their leader named, Sub-Lieutenant Esso Salaka, who assaulted their employee.
The incident has been condemned by the media fraternity in Togo. Media watchdogs, Observatoire Togolais des Medias (OTM), Union des Journalists Independants du Togo (UJIT) and Conseil National des patrons de la Presse (CONAPP), condemned the assault in a joint statement.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and its national partner in Togo, l’Institut des Medias pour la Democratie et les Droits de l’Homme (IM2DH) equally decry the unprovoked attack on the journalist who was performing his legitimate duty. We also support the decision of the Management of l’Alternative newspaper to seek legal redress.