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Journalist detained, newspaper ordered to cease its operations

Expression

Journalist detained, newspaper ordered to cease its operations

On 29th December 2020, armed security forces detained journalist and editor of the newspaper l’Indépendant Express Carlos Ketohou at his residence in Lomé and he was summoned to appear before the Criminal Investigations Central Service on 30th December 2020. The journalist was held for 4 nights on accusations of defamation and was released on 2nd January 2021 on condition that he would be available 'at any time', according to the journalist who spoke with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). 

On 4th January 2021, Ketohou was summoned by the national media regulator, the Haute Autorité de l’audiovisuel et de la communication (HAAC) who accused the journalist of defamation and violating the Code of Ethics over the article ''End-of-year scoop: women ministers arrested for theft of golden spoons', published on 29th December 2020. The HAAC furthermore ordered the newspaper to cease all operations - online and print - and requested the Court of First Instance of Lomé to withdraw the newspaper's operating licence. 

Muthoki Mumo of CPJ said:

'Togolese authorities’ detention of journalist Carlos Ketohou and the forced closure of his newspaper are flagrant violations of press freedom in the country. Authorities should halt their intimidation of the press, and permit Ketohou to work without fear and L’Indépendant Express to work freely.'

Journalist and newspaper sentenced to fines

On 4th November 2020, the Court of First Instance of Lomé found the newspaper l'Alternative and its editor Ferdinand Mensah Ayité guilty of defamation, under articles 160 and 164 of the Press Code and ordered each to pay a fine of two million CFA francs (3,714 USD), in addition to two million CFA francs in damages to Fabrice Adjakly, member of the Petroleum Product Price Fluctuations Monitoring Committee (CSFPPP). As reported previously on the Monitor, Adjakly made a complaint against the investigative paper and the journalist over an article published on 9th June 2020, alleging years of embezzlement in the import of petrol and the fixing of petrol prices, implicating businessman Fabrice Adjakly and his father. 

According to the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), Ferdinand Mensah Ayité has been subjected to threats, including death threats, and acts of intimidation after the publication of the article, particularly through anonymous telephone calls. 

Ayité was summoned to appear before the Central Research and Criminal Investigations Service on 11th January 2021, but the summons was cancelled on 9th January.