Foreign reporters barred from working

New York, March 28, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) deplores the Togolese government’s decision to bar the entire foreign press corps from working in the country.

On March 26, the Communications Ministry sent a press release to the local newsrooms of the BBC, Radio France Internationale, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse barring foreign journalists from working in Togo, said sources in the capital, Lomé.

Foreign correspondents told CPJ that the press release said that the gag order would last “until further notice.” The authorities did not elaborate on the reasons for their decision, said the correspondents, but it is believed that President Gnassingbé Eyadema’s regime took offense when Lomé-based foreign reporters declined to cover a government-sponsored seminar on elections in Africa, which was held on March 24.

The autocratic Eyadema has ruled Togo for nearly forty years. Last year, he introduced changes to the constitution that allow him to seek another term, a move that has angered opposition supporters, alienated independent journalists, and pushed the country to the brink of civil unrest.