Two journalists released from prison

New York, July 23, 2003—Two of three journalists who have been imprisoned in Togo for more than a month were released early this morning from custody.

Philip Evégnon, publication director of the private weekly L’Evenement, and Jean de Dieu Kpakpabia, journalist at the private weekly Nouvel Echo, were acquitted of “attempting to publish false information and to disturb public order” by a court in the catpial, Lomé, on Tuesday, July 22, and were ordered to be released from the central prison.

Togolese sources said that the journalists were severely beaten while in custody.

Also yesterday, Dimas Dzikodo, L’Evenement editor-in-chief, was convicted of “attempting to publish false information” and sentenced to a 500,000 CFA franc (US$864) fine. He remains in prison, unable to pay the amount.

Dzikodo was arrested at a cybercafé in Lomé on June 14 while he was scanning photos of people whom police and government supporters had allegedly manhandled during the June 1 presidential elections. Kpakpabia was arrested at the same cybercafé later that day and was accused by police of trying to send photos with similar content to a Web site outside the country. Evégnon was arrested on June 15; police claim he had directed Dzikodo to scan the photos.

“While we welcome the release of Philip Evégnon and Dieu Kpakpabia, we condemn the sentence against Dimas Dzikodo, his continuing imprisonment, and the inhumane treatment the journalists have received while in prison,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Dzikodo should be released immediately.”