Togo Arrests Newspaper Editor on Defamation Charges

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October 26, 1998


His Excellency
President Gnassingbe Eyadéma
Office of the President
LomÄ, Togo

 

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) writes to strongly protest the arrest of Appollinaire Mewenemesse, editor in chief of the bi-monthly newspaper La Dépêche, and the seizure of the October 15, 1998, edition of the newspaper.

On October 21, 1998, officers arrested Appollinaire and took him to the police station in Lomé. The arrest followed a defamation complaint lodged by the Minister of Defense, General Assane Tidjani. On October 15, 1998, La Dépêche published an article that reported on robberies in LomÄ, which quoted a Togolese Armed Forces soldier as saying "fragments of the abandoned arms found at the crime scene either belonged to the police or the army." Police also seized copies of the October 15 edition of La Dépêche.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists committed to the defense of our colleagues' rights and press freedom worldwide, CPJ is deeply alarmed that police have arrested Appollinaire and seized copies of La Dépêche for publishing information authorities wish to suppress. These actions by police constitute a violation of the right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 9 of the African Charter of Human and People's Rights, to all of which, we respectfully remind Your Excellency, Togo is a signatory.

CPJ strongly urges Your Excellency to see to it that Appollinaire is released immediately. As you should be aware, another journalist, Elias Hounkali of the weekly Le Nouveau Combat, is still in government custody. On August 6, 1998, Hounkali was arrested for "attacking the honor" of the presidential couple following publication of the articles "The Widow Mrs. Bobi Mobutu Demands from Mrs. Badagnaki Eyadéma her 17 Trunks of Jewelry Missing in Lomé," and "Eyadéma Fishes for a Letter of Congratulations from Chirac," which appeared, respectively, in the August 6 and August 8 editions of Le Nouveau Combat. We further urge Your Excellency to ensure that this journalist is released as well, and guarantee that internationally recognized rights of press freedom are protected in Togo. Finally, we respectfully ask Your Excellency to communicate to all government officials in Togo that journalists' right to practice their profession freely and without reprisal must be respected.

 

Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper

Executive Director



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