Togo: An Election-Year Crackdown on Opposition & Free Press

Posted on mars 23, 2013

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snapshot_0001In the run up to Togo’s parliamentary elections, the ruling power has quashed anti-government protests, arrested opposition leaders, and cracked down on free press. Elections, previously scheduled for this month, are now on hold, leaving the West African nation in political disarray and the rights of Togolese people to representative government, freedom of expression, and a free press at risk.

For five decades, the small country of Togo has been ruled by the Rally of the Togolese People (RTP). In the 1990s the country adopted democratic reforms including multiparty elections. But it has yet to successfully execute those reforms, with each subsequent election marred by political disputes, violence, and repression of opposition parties.

This year has fared no differently. In February and early March, 27 members of the opposition coalition, including the president of the National Alliance for Change, were arrested on charges related to fires in the capital city, Lomé. Protests against the arrests have been met with teargas and rubber bullets.

In addition to the crackdown on opposition are new restrictions on the press. A law passed in February grants Togo’s regulatory agency the power to punish, censor, and shut down news outlets and reporters without a court order. Journalists responded with a media blackout and sit-in in front of the Presidential Palace. Again, Togolese police responded to the peaceful demonstrations with excessive force, resulting in several arrests, teargas suffocation, and injuries caused by rubber bullets.

This playlist compiles testimony and citizen video (in French) of the recent political turmoil. In the final video, opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre reacts to the new media restrictions, asserting the government’s intentions to hide its actions from the rest of the world.

Global Voices: « Togo: An Open Letter to Denounce Violence Against Journalists »

Global Post: « Key Togo Opposition Figures Charged Over Market Fires »

All Africa: « Media Blackout As Journalists Begin a 3-Day Protest Against New Repressive Law »

Committee to Protect Journalists: In Togo, Police Attack Journalists Protesting Media Law »

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Posted in: Togo