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Togo14 October 2004

Government promises to guarantee journalist’s safety following death threats

On 13 October 2004, Minister of Communications and Civic Education Pitang Tchalla assured Reporters Without Borders’ Togo correspondent and other representatives of press freedom organisations that the government recognised its obligation to guarantee the safety of journalist Jean-Baptiste Dzilan, publication director of the privately-owned weekly "Forum de la Semaine".

"We welcome [the government’s] decision and trust that the journalist will henceforth be able to resume his professional activities without disruption," Reporters Without Borders said. The minister underlined the government’s concern over the matter and expressed his desire to see the "perpetrators [of the threats] unmasked." Tchalla further stated that the security services had already taken steps to protect Dzilan and that the journalist had nothing to fear.

07.10.2004 Editor receives death threats

The editor of the privately-owned weekly "Forum de la Semaine", Jean-Baptiste Dzilan (also known as Dimas Dzikodo), has been receiving anonymous telephone calls in which the caller has threatened to kill him. The threats began after he published a report by an opposition group.

"Death threats against journalists are to be taken seriously," said Reporters Without Borders. "The interior minister must guarantee Jean-Baptiste Dzilan’s safety and open an investigation into the case to identify and punish those responsible for these anonymous calls."

On 23 September 2004, "Forum de la Semaine" published a special report written by the Brussels-based youth opposition group, The 5 October Movement (Mouvement du 5 octobre, MO5). The weekly provided no commentary on the report. Since then, the paper’s editor has been receiving death threats. "You have signed your death warrant by writing the article on MO5 concerning the President’s children. Be assured that you will be eliminated, it is only a matter of time," one caller reportedly warned. The calls stopped on 1 October, after Dzilan asked the interior minister to look into the case.

Dzilan regularly publishes articles critical of the way in which General Gnassingbé Eyadéma, Togo’s head of state, and those close to power are running the country. In June 2003, he was arrested at an Internet café while scanning photos of torture victims. He was released in July after paying a 500 000 CFA franc (US$936; 764 euros) fine.

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