Togo shares borders with Ghana to the West, Benin to the East, Burkina Faso to the North and Gulf of Guinea to the South. The capital is Lomé. The country covers a surface area of 56785 km² with a population of 6.2 million. Togo gained independence from France in 1960. In 1967, Gnassingbé Eyadéma succeeded in a military coup and became president. Until his death in 2005, Eyadema served as the longest president in the history of Africa. He was president for 38 years. In 2005, his son Faure Gnassingbe was elected president to take over from him.
Overview of Togo’s Media and Freedom of Expression Landscape
The media environment in Togo has relatively improved over the last decades. Despite the emergence of newspapers and radio stations that signifies media plurality; the issue of media professionalism in general arises.
There are about 30 regular weekly newspapers and others which are daily newspapers. The Golf Info newspaper which was a daily newspaper became a weekly paper as a result of financial challenges. There are more than 80 private radio stations, 11 television stations (one state-owned, and four religious/faith based channels and the remaining TV stations are commercial).
After 2010, the media environment in Togo experienced a reduction in restrictions on media rights and freedom of expression with the support of the international community. Serious violations of freedom of expression are now much less frequent. The media regulatory body, the High Authority for Audiovisual and Communication (HAAC), has been strengthened. Authorities no longer use the police or the prosecutor to resolve their disagreements with the media but self-censorship remains a survival reflex even if it is not comparable with what happened before. The HAAC is a media regulator established by the constitution of Togo, and largely controlled by the State. There is also a self-regulatory body called the Togolese Media Observatory and a number of associations including the Union of Independent Journalists of Togo (UJIP), the National Council of Press Patrons (CONAPP) and Journalists for Human Rights.
Legal Regulatory Framework for the Operation of the Media
The legal regulation framework for the media in Togo is governed by the following laws:
• The Constitution of Togo
• Code and ethics of the press and communication.
The media and access to information legal framework has undergone significant changes. In November 2015, Togo passed a new law, Article 497, tightening repressive measures of press offenses. In March 2016, a new law was passed by the Togolese parliament ruling on access to information and public documentation.
MFWA’s Work in Togo
The MFWA has been monitoring media rights, carrying out capacity building programmes and other interventions aimed at strengthening the media in Togo over the past 15 years. The MFWA has contributed enormously in realisation of improved conditions regarding the press freedom and freedom of expression domain.
The MFWA continues to monitor the freedom of expression and press freedom situation in the country. The MFWA’s future engagements in Togo will focus on media development for participatory and responsible governance;
advocacy for digital rights to improve online freedom and democratic consolidation.