- Three imprisoned Togolese journalists have announced that they would begin a 48-hour hunger strike to protest their continued detention on charges of "publishing false information and disturbing public order."
Dimas Dzikodo and Philip Evégnon, editor-in-chief and publication director, respectively, of the private weekly 'L'Evenement', and Jean de Dieu Kpakpabia, journalist at the private weekly 'Nouvel Echo', have been in prison for a month.
Togolese sources said that the three journalists have been beaten during their detention, according to information collected by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
On 4 July, the Togolese public prosecutor visited the journalists in prison and asked them to disclose the names of those who had beaten them. The journalists refused, for fear of further reprisals.
Mr Dzikodo was arrested at a cybercafé in the capital, Lomé, on Saturday, 14 June, while he was scanning photos of persons who were allegedly beaten up by police officers and militiamen of the ruling party, Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (RPT) during the 1 June presidential elections.
The journalist had planned to post the photographs on the website of the opposition party Union des Forces du Changement (UFC), which was prevented by his detention.
Also Mr Kpakpabia was arrested at the same cybercafé later that day and was accused by police of trying to send photos with similar content to a website outside the country.
Finally, Mr Evégnon was arrested on 15 June. Police claim he had directed Mr Dzikodo to scan the photos. The three were subsequently accused of "distributing false news" with the intent of damaging the country's reputation.
Both 'L'Evénement' and 'Le Nouvel Echo' are close to the opposition, which is under constant attack from the oppressive government headed by President Gnassingbé Eyadéma since his 1967 military coup.
- The Togolese authorities aren't fooling anyone, Reporters sans Frontičres (RSF) Secretary-General Robert Ménard said in a recent press release. "These arrests clearly demonstrate their desire to continue repressing the country's independent media, which is the only outlet for the expression of dissenting opinions in the country."
Togo has emerged of Africa's most repressive countries as regards press freedom. During the last years, the confiscation of newspapers has become standard practice and many journalists have paid a visit to the cells of Lomé prison.
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