Reporters Without Borders condemns an order issued by the High Council for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC) on 17 April banning all radio and TV programmes in which the public is allowed to express its views. The ban, prompted by comments made on the air about the president’s brother arrest on 15 April, is to remain in force until further notice.
“This is a dangerous decision that seems designed to gag the media at a time of political instability,” Reporters Without Borders said. “If allowing the public to speak on the air has led to excesses, a regulatory body should encourage efforts to moderate them rather ban these programmes outright. We urge the HAAC to allow Togo’s broadcast media to resume normal programming.”
The HAAC, the main broadcast media regulatory body, banned interactive programmes on “all radio and TV stations until further notice” in order “to avoid excesses.” In a communiqué, the HAAC appealed for “more restraint in the handling of news” and warned that failure to observe the ban would expose violators to disciplinary measures.
The ban was prompted by the comments Togolese citizens made on the air about last week’s events including the arrest of President Faure Gnassingbé’s brother, parliamentarian and former defence minister Kpatcha Gnassingbé, on 15 April in Togo, and the discovery of an arsenal of sniper rifles and satellite telephones in raid on his home. Some 20 army officers and another of the president’s brothers, Essolizam Gnassingbé, were also arrested.
In an address on national television on 17 April, President Gnassingbé said there had been an attempt “to destabilise the republic’s institutions” and stage a “coup d’état”.
The media rushed to cover the story and several Togolese citizens spoke critically of a “fratricidal power struggle” in the course of programmes that went out live.
The Gnassingbé family has been in power for the past 42 years in Togo. The country’s generals imposed Faure Gnassingbé as his father’s successor in 2005. His elevation to the presidency was later confirmed in an election marred by violence and a disputed result.