New York, March 17, 2023 — In response to news reports that a Togolese court on Wednesday sentenced journalists Ferdinand Ayité and Isidore Kouwonou to three years in prison for insulting authorities, the Committee to Protect Journalists released the following statement of condemnation:
“Togolese authorities should not contest the appeals of L’Alternative publisher Ferdinand Ayité and editor-in-chief Isidore Kouwonou, and must ensure that independent journalism can continue to hold those in power to account,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator. “Public officials must be held to high standards of scrutiny and legitimate criticism should never be criminalized.”
At the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, March 15, the court in Lomé, the capital, also fined the journalists 3 million Central African francs (US$4,860) each, those reports said, noting that Ayité and Kouwonou are presently in hiding. The L’Alternative newspaper issued a statement, which CPJ reviewed, saying a warrant had been issued for the journalists’ arrests.
The journalists’ lawyer, Elom Kpade, told CPJ via messaging app that his clients planned to appeal the convictions at the Lomé Appeal Court.
The case stems from an online broadcast by L’Alternative in late 2021, in which the journalists discussed corruption allegations involving two government ministers and accusations that they had manipulated the public.
[Editors’ note: The spelling of Isidore Kouwonou’s name has been corrected in the second paragraph.]