Radio station shuttered

New York, April 22, 2005—An independent radio station in the capital, Lomé, was shuttered on Wednesday by the High Audiovisual and Communications Authority (HAAC)—the same government agency that banned independent broadcasters from covering the campaign for this Sunday’s presidential elections.

According to CPJ sources, the HAAC suspended Kanal FM for one month because of an editorial aired on Monday, April 18, titled “Autopsy of an Electoral Campaign.” The editorial accused members of the ruling party of committing widespread human rights abuses; alleged that the HAAC had become a tool of the ruling party; and denounced the HAAC’s campaign coverage ban, according to a source at the radio station.

According to a copy of the suspension order obtained by CPJ, the HAAC accused Kanal FM’s editorial of being “tendentious, defamatory and insulting” and chastised the radio station for “not observing warnings” and lacking “professional journalistic ethics.”

Modeste Messavussu Akué, Kanal FM’s director, told CPJ he was not aware of the editorial until after it aired, and that he had apologized for the journalist’s accusations on-air on Wednesday.

Jacques Djakouti, president of a local union of private broadcasters, told CPJ that his organization was negotiating with the Communications Ministry in order to secure the re-opening of Kanal FM.

The ban issued on April 15 by the HAAC stated that private broadcasters may neither cover candidates’ campaigns nor “organize special programs or on-air debates featuring candidates or their representatives.”

“The government’s attempts to silence independent voices a few days before the elections are shameful,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Togolese authorities must immediately and unconditionally allow Kanal FM to re-open, and repeal this draconian ban.”

For more information on the situation in Togo, see CPJ’s alerts from April 20 and February 14.