Abuja, Nigeria, July 6, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns an attack on a Togolese journalist who was trying to cover a demonstration on Monday and calls on authorities to immediately investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Atayi Ayi, a reporter for the daily Forum de la Semaine, was taking photographs of a protest in Lomé, the capital, when two groups of unidentified demonstrators beat him and seized his camera, he told CPJ. The journalist said he was wearing a vest that identified him as press. The attack left him with injuries to his right eye, a bloody nose, and bruises all over his body, Ayi told CPJ. He was rescued by a police officer and reported the incident to the police the same day, he said. His camera was recovered by the police, he said.
“Journalists should not fear for their safety simply because they are covering a demonstration,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita from New York. “We condemn the attack on Atayi Ayi and call on Togolese police to thoroughly investigate.”
Ayi was covering a demonstration outside a hotel by family members of a deceased Togolese army officer, who claimed the hotel had unlawfully acquired family land, according to news reports. News reports said the protesters had been led to the hotel by a man identified as Amouzou Kossi, who was described as a naturalized American and U.S. army captain. It is unclear if Kossi is on active duty.
Kossi’s brother, Amouzou Kodjo, told CPJ that Kossi did not assault the journalist or direct any assault. Kodjo would not provide contact information for his brother.
Col. Dokisime Gnama Latta, Togo’s minister of security, told CPJ that investigations were ongoing and that inquiries were being made to the American embassy. Local press freedom groups have condemned the attack.
In an email response to CPJ, Brenda Soya, a public affairs officer from the U.S. embassy in Lomé, said, “The U.S. Embassy cannot comment on the status of private citizens.”
- For more analysis and data on Togo, see CPJ’s Togo page here.