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Togo25 July 2003

Two journalists found innocent after a month of jail, another sentenced to a fine

Dimas Dzikodo, editor of the Togolese weekly L’Evénement, was released in the morning of 24 July, after gathering 500,000 CFA francs (about 760 euros) to pay the fine he was sentenced to, on 22 July for "trying to put out false news".


A Lomé court on 22 July ordered the release of Evégnon and Kpakpabia, but found Dzikodo guilty of "trying to put out false news" and fined him 500,000 CFA francs (about 760 euros). Evégnon and Kpakpabia were freed in the morning of 23 July, while Dzikodo has to pay the fine first.

"We regret they have been freed so late, especially as two of them were found innocent," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "We also deplore the conviction of Dzikodo on an entirely bogus charge which opens the way to all kinds of abuses. We are outraged at the physical attacks on Dzikodo and Kpakpabia while they were being interrogated."

The press freedom organisation also deplored the slowness of officials in obeying the court order to free them. Evégnon and Kpakpabia were not released until the next day, though the prosecutor had ordered their release on the previous evening, and Dzikodo was held, in violation of the law, until he had paid the fine.

The three journalists were arrested on 14 and 15 June. Dzikodo was picked up in a cybercafé where he was scanning and storing pictures of injured people. Kpakpabia was also arrested there with similar photos. Evégnon was accused of handing the pictures to editor Dzikodo.

After being held 10 days in cells at police headquarters, they were sent to Lomé prison where they were incarcerated for over a month. Dzikodo and Kpakpabia were beaten by policemen during intensive interrogation.

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