Access to information law approved
A new bill being considered by the government intends to modify the existing law regulating associations in Togo. Amendments would clarify the distinction between associations and other organisations; define the terms for the merger and separation of two or more associations; introduce obligatory submission of reports certifying the vitality of associations; and prescribe sanctions in cases of non-compliance with the rules.These proposed changes have raised concerns within local civil society who feel they have not been consulted on the proposals up to now, fearing that the government's intention is to increase scrutiny and control over the sector.
In April and May 2016, the government continued to arbitrarily ban demonstrations and detain peaceful demonstrators. In April, the northern city of Mango witnessed violent clashes between police forces and demonstrators during a march organised by the National Alliance for Change (ANC). Meanwhile, the Association of Torture Victims of Togo (ASVITTO) called on the President to take responsibility for police actions in Mango and called for the release of hundreds of demonstrators held since the current series of protests started there in November 2015. In May, a march in Lome organised by the Fight for Political Opposition and civil society organisations, including members of the Togolese diaspora, aimed at pushing for the implementation of the resolutions on a Global Political Accord (APG 2006). The march was peacefully conducted, although the authorities maintained a heavy police presence and a specfic route was prescribed.
In March 2016, the National Assembly adopted a law allowing every person the right to access information and documents held by public institutions in Togo. This is a notable stride for free expression in Togo, which, if implemented, should facilitate the work of journalists. However, a new criminal law adopted in 2015 introduced the charge of publishing, disseminating or reproducing false news which could be used to target journalists, human rights defenders and anyone expressing dissent.