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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le régime togolais s’acharne contre la presse

by Gaël de Santis

Togo’s Government Cracks Down on the Press

Translated Tuesday 31 August 2010, by Isabelle Métral

Togo’s government is harsh on those who bring its dealings to light: on August 10 Didier Ledoux was insulted by a French army officer; last Thursday, as he was working for l’Humanité and his Togo paper Liberté, he was attacked by the police in Lomé.

Journalist Didier Ledoux was taken in for questioning and beaten by policemen last Wednesday (August 25th) in the area of the Courts in Lomé, the capital of Togo. On August 10th, he had been insulted by a French lieutenant colonel, Romuald Letondot, as he was covering the conference of the opposition party Les Forces du Changement (the forces of change), which the president Faure Gnassimbé was trying to prevent from convening. After being uploaded on the web, the pictures had gone round the world and raised questions about the relations between Paris and Lomé.

“I cannot hide from the tentacles of our police forces,” Didier Ledoux confided to me the day before. “I’ve been in their sights for some time already,” he explained. Didier Ledoux works for Liberté, a Togo daily, which a Ministry for the Defence communiqué on August 18th branded as “leaning toward the opposition”. “The government has been taking advantage of the political instability to launch attacks like these,” says Didier Ledoux who in his reporting has “deliberately been keeping away from the potentially rough places.”

He was taken in for questioning on Thursday 26th as he was covering the trial of several newspapers in the Lomé Courts for the Togo daily Liberté and our paper l’Humanité. “I had gone out of the precinct of the Courts to take a wide-angle picture of it, and there was a police van nearby,” he explains. After he had taken the shot, “a policeman came up and asked me to follow him.” He said to him: “You’ve taken a picture of us as you did last time.” The reporter was pushed into a van and “hit by the policemen with their clubs and naked fists.” He got released even before the van had reached their barracks, thanks to his colleagues’ active protests.

Shortly before Ledoux was taken away, the court sentenced the Bénin bi-monthly Tribune d’Afrique to pay damages for slander to Mey Gnassimbé, the president’s brother-in-law, to the extent of 90,000 euro. The review, which is now suspended in Togo, had accused him of being involved in the drug trade.

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