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Togo25 April 2005

Le Figaro correspondent turned back on arrival two days before election

Reporters Without Borders voiced astonishment today at the action of the Togolese authorities in turning back Patrick de Saint-Exupéry, the visiting correspondent of the French daily newspaper Le Figaro, on his arrival at Lomé international airport on 22 April, two days before yesterday’s presidential election.

"We really wonder about willingness of the authorities to let the foreign press do its work," the press freedom organization said. "The expulsion of a French journalist can only make us question the intentions of the Togolese government, coming as it did at a time of great tension and when our organization was calling on the authorities for calm and conciliation."

Almost immediately on his arrival, De Saint-Exupéry was ordered to reboard a Paris-bound flight. Le Figaro said the border police, clearly acting on instructions, referred to "exceptional circumstances" and to "a lack of accreditation" for covering the presidential election. The newspaper said accreditation was requested 10 days in advance and was never granted.

This is not the first time in recent months that a foreign reporter has been denied entry. A visiting RFI correspondent was banned from entering the country in February, shortly after President Gnassingbé Eyadéma’s death.

In a statement issued today, the French foreign ministry said the Togolese government had "notified the closure of its land, sea and air borders" beginning on 22 April (the day De Saint-Exupéry was turned back).

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