Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, but these rights have generally been restricted in practice. President Gnassingbe Eyadema, whose 37-year ironclad rule as Africa's longest-serving dictator has paralyzed the vibrancy of intellectual, political, and economic life, has stifled the media. However, after a decade of defying the European Union (EU), Eyadema reluctantly accepted 22 democratic reforms in a bid to get the EU to lift economic sanctions imposed in 1993. Five of the 22 pledges related to improving the climate for press freedom. In August, Togo's national assembly unanimously passed amendments to the Press and Communications Law, adopted in 2000 and arguably one of the harshest in Africa. The amendments abolished harsh restrictive provisions, including prison sentences for offenses such as defamation and insult. The original press legislation, which allowed the state to impose up to five-year imprisonments and prohibitive fines on journalists found guilty of defaming military or government officials, was often used to harass the media. The amended law also prohibits the Ministry of the Interior from seizing and closing media outlets without judicial approval. However, the law continues to include serious penalties for journalists convicted of defamation and insult; they can be fined as much as 5 million CFA (about US$9,000). A sentence of up to one year's imprisonment may still be imposed for several offenses, such as incitement of ethnic hatred or security forces rebellion and incitement to commit a crime against the state. The new law also stipulates that journalists' licenses can be revoked if they are convicted of more than one offense. Media practitioners in Togo are still hopeful that the two-year evaluation period launched by the European Commission will lead to a freer media environment.
Togo's only significant television station is the government-owned Television Togolaise, and the only daily newspaper is the state-owned Togo Presse. Some of the ostensibly private radio stations are owned by or associated with the ruling Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais party. There is little diversity of viewpoints on radio, as both the private and state-owned stations reinforce government policies. There were several reports of journalists being assaulted and receiving death threats. On a positive note, in October the Minister of Communications and Civic Education gave assurances that the government had an obligation to guarantee the safety of journalist Jean-Baptiste Dzilan, publication director of the privately owned weekly Forum de la Semaine. The assurances followed repeated death threats to Dzilan after he published a report by an opposition group. Dzilan regularly publishes articles critical of the way Eyadema and those close to power have been running the country.