Togolese authorities ban radio station’s call-in programs

Lagos, Nigeria, August 10, 2012–Togo’s media regulatory body has suspended the call-in shows of a leading private radio station without giving the station an opportunity to defend itself in court, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities to immediately allow Légende FM to resume broadcasting all of its programs.

On July 17, a magistrate in Lomé, the capital, told Légende FM to stop broadcasting call-in shows, including Dounegnon and À vos Reactions, on the orders of Togo’s Broadcast and Communications High Authority (HAAC), according to news reports. In a press conference on July 20, HAAC accused the programs of “inciting racial and ethnic hate,” news reports said.

Guy Mario, Légende FM‘s news director, told CPJ that the station was being punished for its shows in June in which callers had criticized the violent crackdown by security forces on anti-government protests in Lomé. Several thousand protesters have clashed with security forces ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled in October, according to news reports. Mario said that the programs, which ran for nine days, featured participants criticizing the government in uncensored language.

The station was suspended indefinitely without being able to defend itself in court, which should have been allowed according to HAAC’s statutes, local journalists said. “We were never informed, invited, or summoned to the tribunal–neither us nor our lawyers,” Mario told CPJ. The station is appealing the tribunal’s decision, Mario said.

HAAC’s president, Kokou Tozoun, told CPJ that the tribunal was not mandated to listen to all parties. He said that the radio station had been warned in the past and that the call-in programs had been “abusive and incit[ed] hatred and insurrection.” Tozoun also told CPJ that recordings of the radio programs had been given to the tribunal’s president, who gave the order to suspend them.

“We condemn the suspension of all call-in programs of Légende FM as an act of censorship of commentary critical of the government,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita from New York. “The station should be allowed to resume broadcasting immediately, and authorities must stop censoring outlets that allow critical voices to be heard.”

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