The Lomé Magistrate Court would hear a suit brought by President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé against privately-owned weekly L’Indépendant Express, over articles that the newspaper published which the President deemed insulting and defamatory.
The writ which accused the newspaper of publishing and disseminating false information was handed to the managing editor, Carlos Komlanvi Ketohou, on August 18.
President Gnassingbé demanded 100 million FCFA (about US$200,000) as damages over “enormous harm” to his reputation. The writ said this offence was punishable by Articles 82 and 92 of the Press and Communication Code and Article 58 of Togo’s Criminal Code.
L’Indépendant Express had in two Issues of June 22, accused President Gnassingbé of fighting over a Beauty Queen, a former Miss Togo, with a Togolese soccer star, Emmanuel Shéyi Adébayor, which had resulted in the star quitting the national team. Issue No. 128 was headlined: “Secret Dossier: the hidden side of a pitched squabble: Faure and Shéyi Adébayor clash over a woman.”
MFWA viewed this as a complete departure from the past. Although the President was demanding huge damages that could cripple the newspaper, journalists are now free to state their cases in court. During the late Gnassingbé Eyadema’s regime, journalists were hounded, jailed, or disappeared for reporting on such issues.
MFWA urged President Faure Gnassingbé to withdraw the case against the newspaper.