Togo ALERT: Journalist detained for 60 days for Facebook post

Bonero Lawson-Betum, Publications Director of the monthly La Nouvelle, has been languishing in detention following his arrest on May 19, 2015.

Lawson-Betum was arrested on the morning of May 19 by two plainclothes individuals while returning from the headquarters of the Liberté newspaper. After being detained a few days at the premises of the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police in Lomé, he was transferred to the Lomé Civil Prison.

Following his arrest, his home as well as his work premises was searched.

The arrest and detention of Lawson-Betum followed a complaint by the Security and Civil Protection Minister, Colonel Damehane Yark, who accused the journalist of having published online, including on Facebook, “detrimental writings in honour of the Minister, his family and threats to his daughter.”

The MFWA’s correspondent in Togo reported that people close to Col. Yark had said Lawson-Betum was not arrested as a journalist in the line of his work but “as a private citizen who abused his freedom to defame the Minister.”

On June 5, Lawson-Betum’s lawyer, Jil-Benoit Afangbedji, asked for bail, but the court denied this request. The case was subsequently sent to the examining magistrate for “investigation”.

According to our correspondent, many believe Lawson-Betum’s arrest and detention was a cover-up since he had been allegedly targeted by authorities for his purportedly pro-opposition position.

The MFWA strongly condemns the continued detention of Lawson-Betum. The continued arrested contravenes his human rights to liberty and security of person and to freedom of expression. The MFWA urges the Togolese authorities to respect Togo’s human rights obligations under international law and immediately release Bonero Lawson-Betum.

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