Eight trade unionists detained, media outlet suspended


Eight trade unionists detained

In January 2021, several trade unionists of the newly established Syndicat des Enseignants du Togo (SET - Teachers Union of Togo) were detained following a call for a teachers' strike. On 17th January 2021, Essohanam Baho was arrested in Kara, followed by Elie Adekplor on 19th January 2021. The heavy-handed arrests sent shockwaves within the trade union sector, motivating several trade unionists to hide. In a statement and during a press conference on 21st January 2021, trade union central Synergie des Travailleurs du Togo (STT) said that gendarmes of the Central Service of Criminal Investigations (SCRIC) entered their offices on 20th January, interrupted a meeting and arrested four trade unionists, including three SET officials, without having presented warrants. The three had a meeting with the STT coordinator on 20th January as the STT offered to act as a mediator between SET and the government after the arrest of some SET members, a role that was accepted by the government. A total of eight trade unionists were arrested, seven of whom were released on 22nd January and the last one on 24th January. They remain under judicial control. 

The trade unionists were reportedly sought for forgery and use of false submissions for not having used the required forms for their constitutive assembly, and having presented to the Ministry of Territorial Administration attendance lists of a virtual congress whose signatories did not recognise. 

Monzolouwè Atcholi Kao, president of the Association of Torture Victims in Togo, commented to Radio France Internationale

"There are real threats to the spaces for freedom in Togo. At the moment, the most edifying example is the arrests made in the trade union world. This is really worrying for the future of the process of the rule of law and democracy in our country." (translated from French)

SET suspended the strike set for 28th and 29th January. 


National media regulator suspends bi-monthly L'Alternative

On 5th February 2021, national media regulator Haute autorité de l’audiovisuelle et de la communication (HAAC) suspended the bi-monthly L'Alternative for a period of four months on accusations of publishing false information following a complaint by Minister of Town Planning, Housing and Land Reform, Koffi Tsolenyanou. The complaint refers to an article published on 2nd February 2021 accusing Tsolenyanou of forging documents. In a press statement published on 5th February 2021, HAAC accused the newspaper of publishing of false information, violation of ethical rules, failure to cross-check facts and “unfounded innuendos”. The media regulator further said that the newspaper did not 'rectify the remarks made', as demanded by HAAC. Ferdinand Messan Ayité, editor of L'Alternative, commented: "This is a report that was done with the greatest professionalism. We were asked to repudiate it to please the complaining minister. We said we will not repudiate anything because everything we said is based on credible material backed with evidence". 

Previously, L'Alternative was suspended for two months in March 2020 and in November 2020 sentenced, together with its editor Ferdinand Messan Ayité to fines of two million CFA francs (3,714 USD) each for defamation over an article alleging years of embezzlement in the import of petrol and the fixing of petrol prices.