The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the harassment of radio journalists by the military after they broadcast press releases asking the Togolese Football Federation (FTF) to reschedule the start of the national championship.
On Saturday, 23 September, during the Radio Sport FM programme "Temps Réglementaire," presented by journalist and editor-in-chief of the station, Jean-Marie Elo, a reporter read a press release from football clubs that wanted to reschedule the start of the national championship. The reporter also read a press release from the FTF stating that there was no way the championship could be rescheduled.
The programme prompted a swift response from the FTF President as security officials were sent to pick up Elo who stayed in hiding during three days.
“We condemn this harassment of Jean-Marie Elo and Radio Sport FM,” said Gabriel Baglo, director of the IFJ Africa office. “We call on the President of the Togolese Football Federation to put an end immediately to this action. There are media regulatory bodies and a judiciary system in Togo that can solve these problems with the media.”
A few hours after the broadcast on Saturday, a soldier and a man in plainclothes came to the radio station asking for a copy of one of the football clubs’ press releases and the journalist who read it. Elo was not at the station at the time.
The following day, Elo was covering on live a football game with a colleague when two soldiers came to the stadium and asked Elo and his colleague to come with them to a military camp to meet FTF President Lieutenant Colonel Rock Balakiyem Gnassingbé. The journalists managed to escape and Elo stayed away from his home and his office, which were under military surveillance.
“This is causing pernicious and unacceptable harm to freedom of the press and freedom of _expression in Togo,” declared Augustin Koffi Améga, Secretary General of the Togolese Union of Independent Journalists (UJIT).
Elo has told the UJIT that he has been in hiding from Sunday to Tuesday when the military started monitoring his house.
“As Togo moves to a new phase in its history after the recent agreement between the ruling party and the opposition, which has brought about a national reconciliation, the repression of the media threatens to jeopardize this new start,” Baglo said.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries