Togo ALERT: Newspaper editor forced into hiding

Augustin Amégah, editor of the Le Reporter des Temps Nouveaux newspaper has been in hiding since April 18, 2002, following reports of a “manhunt” for him by the gendarmerie in Togo.

The Friday, April 18 edition of the newspaper (Issue No. 164), had reported that a Major in the Togolese army had confided in a Captain that “the seizures [of the La Tribune du Peuple weekly] ordered by General Walla are abusive.” (For further information on the La Tribune story, see the MFWA Alert of April 22, 2002 on Togo).

As editor of the newspaper, Mr Amégah is presumed by state security authorities to know the identities of the two unnamed officers. Although Amégah has written a disclaimer in the La Tribune newspaper, the gendarmerie is clearly determined to exact a forced “confession” from him.

The media rights record in Togo has always been abysmal. But the situation has deteriorated appallingly, since the coming into effect of a new, restrictive Press and Communication Code for the country in January 2000. Independent journalists in the country are being hounded and their newspapers routinely shut down, almost on a daily basis. Indeed, during the past two weeks, thousands of copies of more than five different newspapers have been seized using Article 168 of the new Press Code. In the latest such clampdown, the weeklies, Motion d’Information and Le Combat du Peuple were, on Monday, April 22, seized for publishing a memorandum by Dahuku Péré, Member of Parliament for the ruling Togolese People’s Rally (RPT).

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is seriously concerned about this distressing trend of official harassments and abuses of media freedom and freedom of expression generally in Togo. The MFWA, once again, urges the government of President Eyadema to repeal this obnoxious Press Code, and to allow for the development of a free and pluralistic media culture in the country.

The MFWA appeals to you to protest the continuing acts of intimidation and terror against the media in Togo.

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