Media organisations and journalists in Togo on March 12, 2013 embarked on a nation-wide news blackout to protest against a new law that was recently passed by the country's Parliament.
The new legislation grants the statutory media regulatory body, the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC), discretionary powers to impose sanctions on the media without recourse to judicial processes.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent reported that with the exception of the State-owned newspaper and three other pro-government newspapers, all other newspapers did not appear on the newsstands. Radio stations also stopped normal programming and resorted to playing only music.
The blackout is the first of a three-day protest against the passage of the law. As part of the on-going protests, journalists have planned to wear red clothes or red headbands on March 13, 2013 and embark on a demonstration in front of the Presidential Palace on March 14.
The Togolese Parliament on February 19, 2013 passed a new law which grants the government-appointed HAAC, the power to impose sanctions on the media without recourse to judicial processes, as was the practice under the previous law.
The new law is said to contravene Article 26 of the Togolese Constitution which states that "the media cannot be subjected to any preliminary authorisation, be cautioned or censored or other barriers. No publication shall be banned from circulation except by virtue of a court decision."
The MFWA while urging all the journalists not to relent on their efforts to get this law withdrawn reiterates its call on the Togolese government to improve the freedom of expression and media rights environment in the country.