Police Abuse Journalists for Covering Arrest of Opposition Presidential Candidate

President of Togo Faure Gnassingbé. Photo credit: AFP Photo/EMILE KOUTON

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns the use of tear gas by Togolese security officers to disperse a group of journalists who were covering the arrest of Togolese politician, Agbeyome Kodjo, on April 21, 2020 in Nukafu, a district in Lomé.

The Foundation also deplores the arrest and subsequent detention of journalist Aristo Tesko, a reporter with Togo Actualités.

Kodjo, Togo’s main opposition leader, was being arrested for declaring himself president despite losing the February 22 elections.

“Gentlemen, you are not invited to the party this morning. Look for another place and clear off the scene,” a  police officer warned the reporters, shortly before another  attacked them with tear gas.

Police fired tear gas despite the media professionals visibly displaying their press badges, vests and working tools.

Tesko and another freelance journalist, Fare-Kpadja Sherifa, who left the scene dragging along their motorbikes were stopped by a furious police officer who felt they were delaying in leaving the scene.

Sherifa was spared for being a woman while Tesko was arrested, forced into a police vehicle and taken to Service central de recherches et d’investigations criminelles (Central Service of Research and Criminal Investigation) headquarters and detained overnight.

Although the MFWA welcomes the release of Tesko, he should not have been arrested and detained in the first place. We, therefore, call on the authorities to investigate the incident and punish the perpetrators of the violation. The tear gas attack on the reporters was also unwarranted as the reporters were doing their legitimate duties. The Togolese authorities must also investigate this incident and take measures to forestall its recurrence in the future.