- Two brothers of Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé physically attacked journalist Yves Kpeto of the private radio station 'Nana FM' at a Lomé release party after he had criticised their late father, Togo's previous President. The Togolese press union and journalist trade unions now demand reactions from authorities.
Early on Sunday night, the two younger brothers of President Gnassingbé were amusing themselves at a jet set party in the Agoényivé district of Lomé, the Togolese capital. Pretty girls and a few drinks assured the good mood. Until they became aware that also 'Nana FM' journalist Kpeto was at the party. It was pay-back time, the two privileged men in their early thirties figured.
Heading towards the radio journalist, the Gnassingbé brothers accused Mr Kpeto and his colleagues of constant criticism of their father, late President Gnassingbé Eyadéma, and biased coverage of events after his death, when their brother took power in a coup. Then, they stated beating the journalist.
According to a statement by the direction of 'Nana FM', the attack was clearly a result of the radio station's government critical reporting. Directors "deplore this act, coming at a moment when Togo is engaged in an appeasing and reconciliation process." The radio's leadership also "protests against this cheap aggression, which does not honour its wire-pullers and executors."
This is only the latest case of journalist harassment involving the Togolese president's family.
Last September, after the broadcast of a statement of football clubs opposed to a decision of the Togolese Federation of Football (FTF), a journalist from the radio station 'Radio Sport FM' was harassed by men working for Lieutenant Colonel Rock Balakiyem Gnassingbé, President of the FTF and another brother of the state President.
The Togolese Union of Independent Journalists (UJIT), the Association of Free Radios and TV of Togo (URATEL) and the Togolese media regulatory body (OTM) yesterday protested against this aggression and say they intend to take appropriate action on this case in the coming days.
"UJIT, URATEL and OTM require that light is shed on this cheap aggression, which raises the question of safety for journalists exercising their profession in Togo," the different media organisations said in a joint statement. Trade unions were calling on Togolese authorities to make sure "not also this act goes unpunished," and further "requires all journalists to remain vigilant at any time and any place."
Support for the 'Nana FM' journalist also came from abroad as the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the attack. "Nobody is above the law and no one has the right to take the law into his own hands," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office.
"The Togolese authorities must make sure that these men are held accountable for their actions and that the President's family members are not allowed to intimidate and harass journalists," Mr Baglo said, knowing the Togolese police will not act on the attack by the President's brothers unless such action is ordered from above. From President Gnassingbé himself.
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