Togo | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Togo

Togo

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

74

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

29

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

22

The media environment remained generally repressive in 2007, following a period of heightened attacks against independent media outlets intended to secure Faure Gnassingbe’s hold on power after he replaced his father as president in 2005. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are legally guaranteed, but these rights are often ignored by the administration. In 2004, in a deal to end European Union trade sanctions, then president Gnassingbe Eyadema initiated legal improvements, including the abolition of prison sentences for libel and a ban on government closures of media outlets without judicial approval. However, these reforms were disregarded following Eyadema’s death and his son’s rise to power in 2005. Gnassingbe’s initial crackdowns subsided as his position grew more secure, although his administration’s authoritarian habits have not disappeared. In particular, the High Authority for Audiovisual Communications (HAAC), which was intended as an independent body to protect press freedom and ensure ethical standards, is now used as the government’s censorship arm and is closely affiliated with the presidency. During 2007, the HAAC temporarily banned four media outlets without a court order, despite the 2004 legal reforms. Among the targeted outlets was Radio Victoire, which was suspended for “unprofessional conduct” after it refused to ban a controversial foreign journalist, Jacques Roux, from a radio discussion. The HAAC also suspended three newspapers beginning in June: La Trompette was suspended for four months for a series of articles critical of the University of Lome; Le Courrier de La Republique was suspended for three months for criticizing the HAAC; and Le Perroquet was suspended for two months for allegedly accepting payment for a story. Similarly, the HAAC banned radio station Nana FM from airing material by journalist and press freedom advocate Daniel Lawson-Drackey after he criticized the minister of territorial administration.

The political environment for the media was stable in 2007, with journalists wary of criticizing the government but only infrequently subject to direct physical attacks. Nevertheless, the independence of the Togolese press is seriously jeopardized by the culture of impunity that has pervaded the country since 2005. A number of direct attacks on journalists were perpetrated that year, and the incidents have not been investigated. While there were no reported instances of physical attacks or harassment in 2007, journalists are well aware that reporting such crimes to the authorities is probably futile.

Despite such obstacles, Togo is home to lively and diverse independent media, though many private print and broadcast outlets are heavily politicized. The country’s 15 regularly published private newspapers are plagued by inconsistent readership. The government runs Togo’s only daily newspaper, Togo-Presse, and the only national television station, Togo Television. The four private television stations have limited reach; there are also a number of private radio stations. Access to the internet was generally unrestricted during the year, despite reports that its content has been monitored. Slightly less than 6 percent of the population was able to access this new medium in 2007.