Lome – Two Togolese journalists were sent to prison Wednesday on charges of defamation of a government minister, one of their chief editors said.
Loic Lawson, editor of the newspaper Flambeau des Democrates (Democratic Torch), and Anani Sossou, a freelance journalist, were prosecuted for defaming housing minister Kodjo Adedze on social media.
They had claimed he had a stash equivalent to over 600 000 euros in local currency stolen from his home.
The minister had reported a burglary to the police without the amount stolen being made public. He later lodged the complaint against the journalists.
“The two journalists were dropped off at the prison on Wednesday at around 10 a.m.,” Magloire Teko Kinvi, editor-in-chief of Le Flambeau des Democrates, told AFP.
International media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders in a message on X, formerly Twitter, called for their immediate release.
In a press release issued Tuesday, the international francophone press union, UPF, demanded the release of the two journalists.
Two Togo journalists in prison for defamation of Minister
— Channel Africa (@channelafrica1) November 16, 2023
Lawson is president of the Togolese section of the UPF.
In Togo, social media are excluded from the scope of the Togolese media law which came into force this year.
In the event of an online offence, prosecution is based on the criminal code.
Last March, two Togolese journalists were sentenced in absentia to three years’ imprisonment by the Lome High Court in cases taken by two government ministers.
Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005 after succeeding his father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the country with an iron fist for 38 years.
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