15 September 2017

West Africa: Gagging of the Media - Journalists Barred From Covering Demonstration

press release

Two senior journalists were prevented from covering the recent demonstrations in Togo by the authorities in the country, with the camera of one of them seized.

The two were Emmanuelle Sodji a correspondent of TV5 and France 24 both French-based media organizations and Sylvio Combey, Director of a local news website, Afrique Rendez-vous.

The MFWA correspondent in Togo says in the morning of September 6, 2017, the authorities summoned Emmanuelle Sodji and informed her that her accreditation has been withdrawn with immediate effect. She was consequently barred from covering events in the country, beginning with that morning's demonstration by the opposition. No reason was given.

Sylvio Combey suffered a worse fate on the second day of the demonstrations when his camera was seized together with his accreditation badge in the course of covering the demonstration, together Combey was said to be filming the demonstration when a police officer approached him and asked him what authorization he had to cover the event.

"I do not need any special authorisation to cover the event", reportedly he responded.

According to the MFWA correspondent, the journalist had hardly finished his sentence when the police officer seized his accreditation badge and ordered him to surrender his camera. Combey reportedly resisted initially, but eventually gave in as the officer became increasingly aggressive and threatening.

"Where will I get my camera back?", he asked wistfully as he handed his tool.

"Come to the Central Police Station", came the curt reply from the police officer who was not identified.

Sylvio reportedly went to the Central Police Station in Lomé as well as many other police and Gendarmerie stations in the capital before finally retrieving it from the national Intelligence agency after being interrogated about his coverage of the demonstration.

The Togolese authorities have demonstrated a strong determination to restrict publicity on the recent political agitations in the country. They shut down the internet for five day, beginning from September 5, a day before the second wave of protests by the opposition supporters hit the streets of the major towns and cities across the country.

The Media Foundation for West Africa welcomes the restoration of Sylvio Combey camera meanwhile condemns the muzzling of the media by the authorities in Togo. We call for the reinstatement of the accreditation of Emmanuelle Sodji to enable her to resume her work.

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