CPJ protests censorship and threats to private radio stations

New York, February 10, 2005—CPJ is outraged at today’s closure of the private station Radio Lumière, as well as attempts by Togolese authorities to intimidate private broadcasters that have protested the military’s appointment of the late President Gnassingbé Eyadema’s son as leader.

Earlier in the week, officials cut FM transmissions of Radio France Internationale (RFI), which resumed this morning. However, a France-based RFI reporter remains in neighboring Benin after being denied a visa to enter Togo, according to local sources.

Police today shuttered Radio Lumière in Aného, about 31 miles (50 kilometers) east of the capital, Lomé, seizing equipment and driving the station’s director into hiding, according to local sources. They said police accused the station of inciting violence after it aired critical debates.

The crackdown comes after the death last weekend of Gnassingbé Eyadema, who had ruled the country for 38 years, and the army’s swift move to install one of his sons, Faure Gnassingbé, as president in defiance of the constitution. Parliament has since amended the constitution to legitimize the move, but there has been a chorus of regional and international protest.

Local sources say private radio stations have been broadcasting critical debates and interviews on the situation, drawing a number of threats from the ruling authorities. Directors and news editors of private stations were summoned today to a meeting at the media regulatory body, known by its French acronym HAAC, during which a senior official from the Communications Ministry threatened that the stations’ licenses would not be renewed if the outlets did not “work properly,” according to one of the station directors. An army spokesman also at the meeting told the radio stations that they must immediately stop the critical debates.

CPJ sources said that four Lomé radio stations were targeted: Radio Kanal FM, Radio Nana FM, Radio Nostalgie, and Radio Maria.