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Togo: Journalists and activists arrested in a row
Public statement   modifié le 15-12-2021 11:26 par Tournons la Page

A new wave of repression swept through Togo at the end of 2021, striking 5 journalists and political activists in 40 days. In the space of 48 hours, 4 other people suffered the arbitrariness of the Togolese authorities, bringing to 116 the number of political prisoners out of 7 died as a result of their detention. These arrests confirm the desire to silence voices critical of the government and serious violations of freedom of expression. 

1°) Thursday, November 4, 2021: Arrest of Jean-Paul OUMOLOU: Political activist and militant of the Dynamique Monseigneur KPODZRO (DMK) residing in Switzerland, Jean-Paul OUMOLOU was abducted in the early hours of the morning in the Hédzranawoé district of Lomé by heavily armed and hooded agents of the National Gendarmerie who, after having cordoned off the entire district, seized him after having raped him. He was taken to the Central Criminal Investigation and Research Service (SCRIC), where he underwent lengthy interrogations and was presented to the Public Prosecutor and the Investigating Judge. He was accused of : Call to the people and the army to insurrection; dissemination of false news; excuses for crime;contempt of public authority. He has been banned from the SCRIC for 40 days.

2°) Thursday, December 9, 2021: Arrest and imprisonment of journalist Ferdinand Messan AYITE, editor of the newspaper L'Alternative. He was summoned to the Brigade of Research and Investigation (BRI) solely for having made critical comments about two government ministers in the program "L'autre journal" on Youtube. He is accused of "contempt of authority" on the basis of Article 490 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, although press offenses have been decriminalized since 2004 in Togo.  

This arrest comes 5 months after Ferdinand Ayité's name was discovered among the people placed under surveillance via Pegasus. Not to mention the fact that his newspaper was suspended for 4 months on 9 April 2021. 

Held in custody and incarcerated at the BRI in the evening, he was taken to the investigating judge the following day, 10 December, who confirmed the charges and placed him under a detention order in the evening.

3°) Friday, December 10, 2021: Arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of journalist Joël Vignon EGAH, director of publication of the newspaper Fraternité, and the placing under judicial control of his colleague Isidore KOUWONOU, editor-in-chief of the newspaper L'Alternative and Secretary General of the Union of Independent Journalists of Togo (SYNJIT). Both participated in the program "L'autre journal", the first as a participant, the second as moderator. Like Ferdiannd Ayité, they are accused of "contempt of authority". Brought before the investigating judge, Joël EGAH was placed under a detention order and Isidore KOUWONOU was placed under judicial supervision.

These events are taking place at the time of the celebration of the international day of human rights that the authorities chose to crucify instead of celebrating. At a time when the whole world was celebrating the human species for its most sacred equality and dignity, Togolese justice snatched the feathers of three journalists. These journalists were analyzing the socio-political situation in the light of current events. Clearly, they were in the exercise of their function as journalists, and the facts they are accused of are not detachable from this function. On the legal level, it is the HAAC that should be seized for any breach of ethics, but in no case a commander of the gendarmerie. But especially not a prosecutor to place journalists under arrest.