Three journalists imprisoned for more than a week

New York, June 25, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about the continued imprisonment of three Togolese journalists on charges of “publishing false information and disturbing public order.”

Dimas Dzikodo and Philip Evégnon, editor-in-chief and publication director, respectively, of the private weekly L’Evenement, and Jean de Dieu Kpakpabia, journalist at the private weekly Nouvel Echo, were transferred yesterday to Lomé Central Prison from the National Security Services headquarters, where the three journalists had spent more than a week in detention.

Dzikodo was arrested at a cybercafé in the capital, Lomé, on Saturday, June 14, while he was scanning photos of people whom police and government supporters had allegedly manhandled during the June 1 presidential elections. Police claim that members of the opposition Union des Forces du Changement (UFC) gave Dzikodo the photos, and that he was planning to send the pictures to a Web site based outside Togo.

Togolese journalists told CPJ that Kpakpabia was arrested at the same cybercafé later that day. Police said the journalist was trying to send photos with similar content to a Web site outside the country.

On June 15, police arrested Evégnon, claiming he had directed Dzikodo to scan the photos.

On June 19, police allowed Evégnon and Dzikodo to speak to the press. The two journalists confirmed that they had received the photos from UFC members but said they were archiving the pictures and not sending them to a Web site. Police provided no explanation for Kpakpabia’s absence from the press briefing.

Sources in Lomé said that the journalists appeared to have been beaten during their detention.

“The imprisonment of these three journalists for the simple act of scanning photographs is an outrage,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We call on the Togolese government to release Dzikodo, Evégnon, and Kpakpabia immediately.”