Loic Lawson

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

LoÏc Lawson, of Flambeau des Démocrates newspaper, was arrested on November 13, 2023, along with freelance reporter Anani Sossou, and charged with disseminating false news and attacking the honor of a minister over the journalists’ social media posts. On November 15, they were taken to Lomé civil prison.​

Lawson is the owner and publisher of the privately owned Flambeau des Démocrates, which was founded about 20 years ago, its editor-in-chief Magloire Teko Kinvi told CPJ. The print edition newspaper covers a range of issues, including business, crime, sports, and natural resources, and promotes its work on social media.

On November 13, 2023, police arrested Lawson and Sossou after they responded to a summons from the police’s Research and Investigations Brigade (BRI) in the capital, Lomé. This was in response to a complaint by Togo’s minister of urban planning, housing, and land reform, Kodjo Sévon-Tépé Adédzé, over the journalists’ social media posts, which have since been deleted, about the alleged theft of a large sum of money from Adédzé’s home.

On November 14, an investigating judge charged Lawson and Sossou with disseminating false news and attacking the honor of a minister, according to news reports and Kinvi. Sossou was also charged with inciting a revolt, Kinvi said. 

Offenses against honor are punishable by up to six months’ suspended imprisonment, insulting representatives of public authority and the dissemination of false news are each punishable with up to two years’ imprisonment, and incitement to revolt is punishable with up to five years’ imprisonment, according to the penal code.

Togo’s press code says offenses involving journalists generally must be handled by Togo’s communications regulator, but in some cases it allows for journalists to be prosecuted under the penal code. Article 156 of the press code says journalists who “used social networks as a means of communication” to commit offenses should be “punished in accordance with the common law provisions.” 

On November 15, the judge rejected a request by the journalists’ lawyer for their provisional release and they were taken to Lomé civil prison, Kinvi said.

On November 15, Adédzé declined to comment on the case and referred to CPJ to judicial authorities. He told CPJ that all “developed countries” had regulations governing the press.

Editor’s note: Lawson was released on December 1 at around 11:30 a.m. local time, according to a person with knowledge of the case who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. Lawson is included in CPJ’s 2023 census—a snapshot of journalists incarcerated at 12:01 a.m. local time on December 1 each year—because he was in custody at that time.