Letters   |   Togo

Togo must investigate, discipline security officers

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May 14, 2012

Colonel Gnama Latta
Minister of Security of the Republic of Togo

Via facsimile

Dear Col. Latta,

We are writing to express our alarm that Togolese security forces have been implicated in acts of intimidation and obstruction of journalists reporting on public protests in the capital, Lomé, in recent weeks. If unpunished, these acts could undermine Togo's image. We call on your office to ensure that security forces allow journalists to do their jobs and that officers involved in acts of abuse are held to account. 

Since March, we have documented the cases of three photojournalists--Koffi Djidonou Frédéric Attipou, Noël Kokou Tadegnon, and Didier Alli--whom security forces assaulted and obstructed for filming the dispersal of protest marches. We have brought these cases to your attention in several telephone conversations.

We are encouraged by public measures you have taken in the case of Tadegnon, who reports for Reuters news agency, Vox Africa, and Deutsche Welle. Security forces knocked Tadegnon unconscious after he filmed the violent dispersal of a protest march on April 27. Radio Togo reported that on May 1, you publicly condemned "the attitude of four security officers who displayed violence that could have been avoided" against the journalist. You also ensured that police returned his camera and that of Didier Alli, a reporter for local television station TV7 who was filming alongside him--although Alli's camera had been damaged.

You have an opportunity to do more to show that your office will not tolerate abuse or lack of discipline among security officers. Your statement on Radio Togo referenced four officers responsible for brutalizing Tadegnon, but the journalist told CPJ that his attackers numbered at least 10 and operated under the orders of an officer named Athna Sama. Also, you have declined to provide CPJ with details about any disciplinary action taken. We believe it would be in the interest of justice and fairness for the Togolese government to make public the officers' names and the disciplinary measures taken, to sensitize other officers and avoid abuses in the future.

We also request your intervention in ensuring that police compensate Alli, the TV7 journalist, for the damage to his camera.

Finally, no one has been held to account for the security forces' assault March 2 on Koffi Djidonou Frédéric Attipou, a photojournalist with the weekly Le Canard Indépendant and the biweekly magazine Sika. Attipou suffered an eye injury after police beat him for taking photos of officers seizing a motorcycle during a protest. In an interview with CPJ last month, you claimed that your office was not able to identify the officers responsible.

Col. Latta, we call on you to use the authority of your office to ensure adequate investigation and prosecution of members of security forces involved in abusing journalists, and to ensure that TV7 receives compensation for its damaged camera. Such action would underscore the Togolese government's respect for human rights, press freedom, and sincerity in upholding the rule of law.

We formally request your reply. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director

CC:

H.E. Limbiye Edawe Kadangha Bariki, Ambassador of Togo to the United States

H.E. Kodjo Menan, Permanent Representative of Togo to the United Nations

H.E. Robert Whitehead, Ambassador of the United States to Togo

H.E. Joseph Weiß, Ambassador of Germany to Togo

H.E. Nicolas Warnery, French Ambassador to Togo

Faith Pansy Tlakula, African Union Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

Frank LaRue, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Margaret Sekaggya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

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