The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the media regulatory body in Togo (HAAC) for banning independent radios and televisions stations in the country to broadcast programs covering the presidential election scheduled for 24 April.
“The fact that the HAAC is banning Togolese journalists from performing their duties shows the wayward and dangerous nature of the Togolese system,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, adding, “The HAAC is responsible to guarantee and ensure press freedom and protection”.
In a communiqué dated 15 April, the HAAC challenged the directors of the independent radio and television stations to abide by its decision taken on 9 March 2005 saying that “the independent radios and televisions are not authorised to broadcast special programs or debates by candidates or their representatives during the presidential election campaign”.
The HAAC arbitrarily ruled that the concerned Togolese media “are not authorised to give media coverage to the campaign of all of the candidates” and thus two days ago suspended the licences of Radio canal FM for one month.
“Articles 182, 186, 187 and 188 of the electoral code require the HAAC and the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) to ensure fairness in the gathering and dissemination of information during election campaigns,” explained Francis Pedro Amuzun, chairman of Togo’s media observatory (OTM).
Furthermore, “the law requires the HAAC to fairly regulate the landscape and broadcast time used by candidates to publish their messages or programs on the public media”. “However, neither the constitution, nor the electoral code, nor the media law in Togo have a provision forbidding the press from covering an election campaign,” concluded Amuzun.
“This is a real media blockade designed to deprive the people of their freedom to information as well as their freedom of thought,” said White. “Self regulatory devices exist in Togo to enable media professionals to perform their role during this political event that is essential to the Togolese democratic process”.
Professional media organisations particularly the Union of Independent Journalists in Togo (UJIT), the Association of Independent Radios and Televisions (URATEL), the Organisation of Independent Media Publishers (OREPI), the Togo Media Ethics Committee (OTM), have unanimously condemned this abuse by the authorities of the HAAC whose aim is to muzzle the press during the electoral campaign.
The IFJ is urgently appealing to the HAAC and Togolese authorities to lift the suspension against Radiol Kanal FM and to end all repressive measures aimed at journalists as well as to refrain from undermining the fundamental right of Togolese to freely express themselves.
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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries