Committee to Protect Journalists
Country Report: Togo
As of December 31, 1998
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The government of Togo made little effort to portray the flawed June elections as legitimate. President Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who has ruled the country since seizing power in a 1967 coup d'état, simply declared himself the winner. And by deftly exploiting the country's deep ethnic divisions and ruthlessly disposing of his opponents, Eyadéma has extended his reign as Africa's longest-sitting head of state. The state media offered little coverage of the main opposition candidate, Gilchrest Olympio, son of Togo's first post-independence leader, Sylvanus Olympio, who was reportedly killed by Eyadéma during a 1963 coup.

Togo's independent press has a formidable foe in Eyadéma, who has steadfastly pursued his goal of silencing them through draconian laws providing criminal penalties for defamation, and specific proscriptions against defaming government officials and the head of state.

Among the major Western powers, only France continues to grant Eyadéma high-level diplomatic support. It was thus not surprising that an article titled "Eyadéma Fishes For a Letter of Congratulations from the Great Chirac," published in the August 6 edition of Le Nouveau Combat, touched a nerve: Edoh Amewouho and Elias Hounkali, the reporters who wrote the offending article, remain imprisoned at press time. A compromised judiciary has aided in institutionalizing the state's frequent arrests of journalists who are deemed pro-opposition. The government continues to pressure advertisers to withhold advertising from publications expressing critical views to force the independent press into bankruptcy.

Private ownership of radio and television is permitted, but the range of the stations is limited. State-run broadcast media reach the entire population.

Eyadéma's manipulation of the electoral process and his systematic suppression of a viable opposition has managed to escape international scrutiny because the country is a small impoverished one with few natural resources. It remains the responsibility of the private press to publicize the magnitude of Eyadéma's abuse of power for over three decades.
Attacks on the Press in Togo in 1998
Date Journalist Incident
11/10/98 Edoh Amewouho, Le Nouveau Combat Imprisoned
8/6/98 Augustin Asionbo, Tingo Tingo Imprisoned
8/6/98 Pamphile Gnimassou, Abito Imprisoned
8/6/98 Elias Hounkali, Le Nouveau Combat Imprisoned

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