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Togo31 March 2003

Authorities censor foreign correspondents

According to information collected by Reporters Without Borders, on 26 March 2003, the Communications Ministry’s press attaché informed all foreign correspondents, including those with Radio France Internationale, Agence France-Presse, Reuters and the BBC, that the minister was barring them from practicing their jobs "until further notice." With the exception of the correspondent for Africa No. 1 radio, the authorities fault the journalists for not covering a forum on African elections, which opened in Lomé on 24 March. The foreign correspondents had not found interesting issues to cover at the opening of the forum. Several journalists said they had decided to wait until the end of the conference and the likely adoption of resolutions before covering the event.

"This is a reactionary measure from another era. It has been years since we saw a government censor the entire foreign press corps. The Togolese authorities have once again demonstrated how imaginative they are when it comes to attacking the press," said Reporters Without Borders’ Secretary-General Robert Ménard. The organisation has urged the communications minister not to apply this measure and to allow foreign correspondents to work without impediment.

According to one correspondent from an international news agency who spoke to Reporters Without Borders, if this new measure is enforced, it could seriously compromise journalists’ ability to do their jobs. For example, they might be prevented access to official meetings or no longer be invited to attend government or other officials’ press conferences.

Reporters Without Borders recalls that Togolese President Gnassingbé Eyadéma is included on the organisation’s list of international press freedom predators.

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