Lome – Two Togolese journalists critical of the government have been arrested over comments they made during a broadcast on web-based television, their lawyer told AFP.
Ferdinand Ayite and Joel Egah, editors of the bi-weekly L’Alternative and the weekly Fraternite respectively, were arrested late Friday and interviewed by the judicial police before appearing before the judge.
The small West African state, which has been ruled since 2005 by President Faure Gnassingbe, is often accused by rights groups of cracking down on opposition figures and the media.
Ayite had been in police custody after complaints from two ministers over remarks made in the broadcast.
“The two journalists are placed under arrest for defamation and contempt of authority,” their lawyer Elom Kpade said, denouncing irregularities in the proceedings.
“We have not seen the complaints of the two ministers, nor the indictment of the prosecutor,” he said.
A third journalist who also took part in the programme was interviewed by the judge and placed under judicial supervision, Kpade said.
The head of the Africa office of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Arnaud Froger, denounced the “illegal” and “dangerous” arrest of Ayite, deploring the detention of journalists for criticism made on air.
“This new episode darkens a little more Togo’s record in terms of press freedom,” he told AFP.
It is not the first time the media have run into trouble with authorities.
L’Alternative and Fraternite are Togolese newspapers critical of the government.
L’Alternative was suspended in February for four months by the HAAC media watchdog in a case involving Housing Minister Koffi Tsolenyanu.
In March 2020, the newspaper had already been suspended for two months after a complaint from the former French ambassador to Togo.
The newspaper Fraternite was also suspended in March 2020 for two months, following an article denouncing the suspension of two other newspapers.
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