Togo: MFWA welcomes the release of detained Editor

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) welcomes the release of the publishing director of the Togolese private media, La Dépeche, Apollinaire Mewenemesse, and urges the Togolese authorities to drop all charges against him.

On February 28, the bi-weekly newspaper La Dépeche published an article in which it disagreed with a court over the 20-year jail sentence handed to the head of the army, General Abalo Kadangha. The controversial verdict followed the murder trial of General Kadangha in connection with the suspicious death of Lieutenant Colonel Bitala Madjoulba, a leading figure in President Faure Gnasingbe’s inner circle.

Mr. Mewenemesse was invited to the Research and Investigation Brigade of the Police in Lomé on March 26, 2024, and detained, following his critical publication about the verdict. On March 28, the 72-year-old journalist was charged with seven counts, including defamation, false publication, incitement, and undermining state security. He spent fourteen days in detention.

On April 9, 2024, a court in Lomé finally ruled for the release of the publishing director of La Depeche under judicial supervision. However, according to a source, Mewenemesse was asked to appear at the court twice a month, to avail himself of future court hearings and finally, was prohibited from leaving Lomé, the capital of Togo.

The MFWA welcomes the court’s decision to release the 72-year-old journalist, which comes against a backdrop of repression in Togo. In the past few years, a number of journalists have been jailed for publishing so-called false information and for defamation. The conviction of Loic Lawson and Anani Sossou and the suspension of media outlets such as L’Alternative and Tampa Express, sums up the current hostile environment for press freedom in Togo.

Once again, we urge the government to drop all charges against Mr. Mewenemesse in keeping with media freedom and proper democratic values.

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