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Togo3 January 2003

Journalist arrested for inciting a rebellion

On 26 December 2002, Sylvestre Djahlin Nicoué, director of publication for the weekly "Courrier du citoyen", was arrested and remanded into custody for "inciting citizens to take up arms against the authority of the state." Without disputing the inflammatory nature of the incriminating article, Reporters Without Borders calls on the Togolese authorities to free the journalist. Nicoué wrote a very critical article about the country’s president that could admittedly be open to multiple interpretations, but cannot be said to constitute a call to murder or ethnic hatred, which would be the only reasons to justify a journalist’s detention, according to Reporters Without Borders.

According to information collected by Reporters Without Borders, on 26 December, judicial police agents took Nicoué in for questioning in Lomé. The police said that the journalist was apprehended "in connection with a seditious article that insidiously called on the people to engage in an armed revolt." Nicoué was arrested as he was leaving a meeting with the High Authority for Audio-Visual Communications (Haute Autorité de l’audiovisuel et de la communication, HAAC). The HAAC had asked Nicoué to "show more restraint in his articles."

On 26 December, "Le Courrier du citoyen" published an editorial entitled, "Empêcher Eyadéma de gouverner" ("Stop [President Gnassingbé] Eyadéma from governing"). The weekly was trying to make "those who are tyrannising [the Togolese] understand that if nothing were done to open the gates of freedom and make clear and palpable progress toward change, in 2003 the people would rebel." The newspaper added that "everything must be considered so that this disgusting and painful period for [the] people does not continue after June 2003 - even if it is necessary to make the ultimate sacrifice."

Togolese President Eyadéma will complete his second mandate in 2003. On 30 December, the National Assembly adopted a bill aimed at modifying the Constitution and allowing the head of state to run for election again.

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