New York, April 30, 2012–Togolese police attacked and confiscated the equipment of two journalists filming an anti-government march in the capital, Lomé, on Friday. Civil society activists and human rights advocates had gathered for the demonstration on the occasion of Togo’s 52nd Independence Day, local journalists said.
More than 10 police officers assaulted Noël Kokou Tadegnon, a freelance journalist for Reuters TV, the London-based pan-African satellite broadcaster Vox Africa, and the German-government funded broadcaster Deutsche Welle, as he filmed security forces firing tear gas at protesters, news reports said. Tadegnon told CPJ a police officer shouted at him to stop filming and then ordered other officers to “deal” with him. Tadegnon told CPJ he was struck in the back of the head and when he awakened, his camera was gone. The journalist sought treatment at a local hospital for swelling, he said.
Another journalist, Didier Alli, a reporter for the local TV station TV7, told CPJ that as he tried to intervene in the assault on Tadegnon, police officers seized his camera. “I was telling them to leave him, that he is a journalist. But instead they descended on me…and forcefully seized my camera,” Alli said.
Togolese Minister of Security Col. Gnama Latta told CPJ that he was aware of the assaults on the journalists and would disclose any disciplinary action if the officers were found guilty of wrongdoing. The minister also said that the journalists’ cameras would be returned to them, but both journalists told CPJ today that they had not received them. CPJ was unable to reach Latta for comment today.
“Togolese police may not like reporters documenting their public activities, but officers are accountable for their actions and should not be allowed to silence news coverage by assault or other heavy-handed tactics,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We call on the security minister to send a clear message that police are not above the law by ensuring the officers responsible for these assaults are held accountable and that all seized equipment is returned immediately.”