Julien Ayi, editor of Nouvel Echo, was freed on 8 February after serving a
six-month prison sentence.
Publication director sentenced to four months’ imprisonment
On 13 September 2002, Julien Ayi, publication director of the
"Nouvel Echo", was sentenced to four months in prison for "attacking the
honour" of the Togolese president. While not wishing to comment on the facts
of the case, Reporters Without Borders recalled that, according to international human rights authorities, a sentence of imprisonment with no parole for defamation is "disproportionate" to the damage suffered by the victim. Reporters Without Borders called on President Gnassingbé Eyadéma to do everything possible to release Ayi immediately. "This sentence comes shortly after Parliament’s adoption of the new Press Code. These are two very worrying developments for press freedom in Togo," stated Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Robert Ménard.
According to information gathered by Reporters Without Borders, Ayi was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment and fined 100,000 CFA francs (approx. 152 euros) and one franc for symbolic damages. In August, "Nouvel Echo" published an article citing the US-based "Forbes" magazine that "had appraised President Eyadéma’s personal fortune at US$4.5 billion." The article also stated that the president was involved in trafficking of foreign currency. A few days
later, "Forbes" said they had never named the Togolese president in its list
Alphonse Névamé Klu, editor-in-chief of "Nouvel Echo", who went into hiding
following the article’s publication, was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 CFA francs. A warrant for his arrest has been issued.
Reporters Without Borders recalled that the new Togolese press code proposes heavy prison sentences for defaming or insulting the president or state institutions,
courts, the armed forces, and public administration bodies.