Journalist detained for two weeks

New York, June 18, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the continued imprisonment of Basile Agboh, publication director of the independent Lomé­based weekly Le Scorpion. Agboh has been in prison for two weeks.

Agboh was arrested on June 5 along with Maurice Atchinou, editor-in-chief of Le Scorpion, who was released the following day. Their arrests came after an article in the June 3 edition of the paper alleged that Lieutenant Colonel Ernest Gnassingbé, son of Togo’s president, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, issued death threats to Prime Minister Agbeyomé Kodjo.

The report claimed that Ernest Gnassingbé accused the prime minister of supporting a prominent member of the ruling Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais who had criticized the president and called for reforms within the party, said CPJ sources in Togo.

On June 6, Agboh was charged with “attacking the honor” of Ernest Gnassingbé. The publication director was then transferred to Lomé civilian prison to await trial.

Though the newspaper has printed an apology for the story, Agboh remains in prison.

“Journalists should never be imprisoned for what they write,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We call on Togolese authorities to free Basile Agboh immediately, and to stop criminally prosecuting and harassing journalists.”

Since the government adopted a new press code in January 2000, Togolese authorities have used the law to harass and jail journalists, close news organizations, and seize entire editions of newspapers.

Agboh is the fifth journalist to be jailed in the last year in Togo.