10 June 2017

Togo: Newspaper Suspended Over Insensitive Publication

press release

The media regulatory authority in Togo, la Haute Autorité de l'Audiovisuelle et de la Communication (HAAC), has suspended the newspaper La Nouvelle for one month for breach of journalistic ethics.

According to Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent in Togo, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper La Nouvelle, Bonero Lawson-Betum, was summoned by the media regulatory authority to explain why the newspaper published in its May 15, 2017 edition a story recounting political violence in Togo, accompanied by pictures of some dead and maimed victims of the acts of violence.

The offending article analysed the socio political history of the country and named some individuals as "purveyors of political violence."

The MFWA correspondent said the HAAC having found the explanations of the editor unconvincing, announced the one-month suspension against the newspaper on May 24, 2017. It means La Nouvelle will not be on the newsstand until June 24, 2017.

"The conclusion drawn by the HAAC is that the newspaper sought to encourage intolerance by publishing those gruesome photos, whereas the ethics of journalism recommends that journalist should shy away from publishing gruesome stories and images," the HAAC said in its communiqué announcing the sanctions.

The regulatory authority said it invoked article 3 of the organic law of HAAC which frowns upon publications that are "defamatory and represent a threat to social peace and security, as well as disrespect for human dignity."

The MFWA finds this development unfortunate as it reflects negatively on the journalism profession. While we urge the HAAC to consider reducing the suspension term, we also appeal to La Nouvelle and all media organisations to demonstrate professionalism at all times to safeguard the integrity of the profession and avoid conflicts with media regulatory authorities.

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