Rising doubts over credible elections in Togo


Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé

from ESSIE KOMBATE in Lome, Togo
Togo Correspondent
LOME, (CAJ News) – AHEAD of the elections in Togo, a French journalist has been arrested and deported.

The country’s media regulatory body has suspended accreditation for foreign journalists covering the election.

Generally, there are increasing threats to the media in the West African country towards the parliamentary and regional elections on Monday.

This casts doubts over a credible poll.

This month, authorities arrested and expelled French journalist, Thomas Dietrich.

He works for the news outlet, XXI Africa.

Togo’s elections were set to take place on April 13, then April 20. However, the government postponed them to April 29 following tension around a constitutional change moving the country from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system.

Dietrich was in Togo to cover the political crisis around the constitutional reform as well as the elections.

However, he was arrested on April 15 after the media regulatory body denied him accreditation.

Authorities handed him a six-month suspended sentence for illegal entry into the country and deported him the following day.

“It is increasingly worrying how authorities are restricting press freedom in Togo,” lamented Nompilo Simanje, International Press Institute (IPI) Africa Advocacy and Partnership Lead.

  “Togo authorities must allow the media to report freely on the electoral process and guarantee press freedom. Free and independent media coverage of the elections is indispensable for credibility and transparency.”

The recent expulsion of Dietrich and the suspension of accreditation for foreign journalists are the latest concerning developments.

Authorities have reportedly employed spyware technology to surveil journalists.

Recently, authorities detained journalist Appolinaire Mewenemesse of the newspaper La Dépêche in response to an article questioning the conviction of a high-ranking military officer in the murder of another officer believed to be close to President Faure Gnassingbe.

Authorities later released Mewenemesse but charged him on several counts, including publication of fake news and incitement.

Before his arrest, the media regulatory body had suspended his newspaper for three months over the article.

In 2023, a court sentenced journalists Ferdinand Ayite and Isidore Kouwonou of the newspaper Alternative to three years over a YouTube broadcast critical of two government ministers.

They fled into exile out of fear for their safety.

Additionally, authorities detained journalists Loic Lawson and Anani Sossou for several days after Togo’s housing minister filed a defamation complaint against them.

The journalist had reported about a burglary at the minister’s house.

Gnassingbe (57) has been in power since the death of his father, Eyadéma Gnassingbé, in 2005. The Union for the Republic dominates political life.

On Tuesday, the Electoral Commission rejected the Catholic Church’s request to deploy observers during the upcoming vote. More than 4,2 million Togolese are registered to vote in the country of 9 million people.

– CAJ News

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