Doubts over credible elections in Togo, as journalists restricted, church denied observer status


LOME – Ahead of the elections in Togo, a French journalist has reportedly been arrested and deported.

The country’s media regulatory body has allegedly suspended accreditation for foreign journalists covering the election.

Generally, there were increasing threats to the media in the West African country towards the parliamentary and regional elections on Monday next week, reported Cajnews.

This month, authorities had been said to have arrested and expelled French journalist, Thomas Dietrich.

He worked for the news outlet, XXI Africa.

Togo’s elections were set to take place on April 13, then April 20.

However, the government postponed them to April 29, 2024, following tension around a constitutional change moving the country from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system.

Dietrich was in Togo to cover the political crisis around the constitutional reform as well as the elections.

However, he was arrested on April 15 after the media regulatory body denied him accreditation.

Authorities reportedly handed him a six-month suspended sentence for illegal entry into the country and deported him the following day.

“It is increasingly worrying how authorities are restricting press freedom in Togo.

“Togo authorities must allow the media to report freely on the electoral process and guarantee press freedom.

“Free and independent media coverage of the elections is indispensable for credibility and transparency,” lamented Nompilo Simanje, International Press Institute (IPI) Africa Advocacy and Partnership Lead.

The recent expulsion of Dietrich and the suspension of accreditation for foreign journalists were the latest concerning developments.

Authorities had reportedly employed spyware technology to surveil journalists.

Recently, authorities detained journalist, Appolinaire Mewenemesse, of the newspaper La Dépêche in response to an article questioning the conviction of a high-ranking military officer in the murder of another officer believed to be close to President Faure Gnassingbe.

Authorities later released Mewenemesse but charged him on several counts, including publication of fake news and incitement.

Before his arrest, the media regulatory body had suspended his newspaper for three months over the article.

On Tuesday, the Electoral Commission rejected the Catholic Church’s request to deploy observers during the upcoming vote.

More than 4.2 billion Togolese were registered to vote in the country of nine million people.

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