Ferdinand Ayité, Togo

International Press Freedom Awards

(Photo credit withheld)

CPJ is honored to present its 2023 International Press Freedom Award to Togolese journalist Ferdinand Ayité

Ferdinand Ayité is one of the most targeted journalists in Togo in recent years—facing persistent legal harassment and threats that have forced him into exile. His phone number also appeared on the Pegasus Project list of journalists allegedly selected for potential spyware surveillance.

Ayité leads L’Alternative, one of Togo’s top investigative outlets, known for its fearless coverage of alleged corruption and protests against the rule of President Faure Gnassingbé, whose family has been in power since 1967.

In 2020 and 2021, authorities twice suspended L’Alternative following stories seen as critical of government officials. The legal harassment prompted a 2020 letter from 38 members of the EU Parliament expressing their “deepest concerns over the judicial harassment” faced by Ayité and his newspaper.

In December 2021, he was jailed for nearly a month after two government ministers complained about a broadcast in which Ayité discussed their alleged corruption and manipulation of the Togolese public. In March 2023, Ayité and L’Alternative’s editor-in-chief Isidore Kouwonou fled the country shortly before a Togolese court found them guilty on insult and false news charges and sentenced them to three years in prison. 

Now in exile, Ayité remains committed to informing the public and maintaining L’Alternative as “a symbol of freedom in Togo.”

Ayité is a member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and collaborated on the groundbreaking Panama Papers investigation in 2016, focusing on tax avoidance schemes by Indian companies based in Togo.

Honoring Ayité with this year’s IPFA recognizes his commitment to investigating the powerful and holding them accountable while resisting the judiciary’s instrumentalization to censor local journalists.