Despite a bloated media landscape, state media still struggle to provide public service information in Togo. The degree of press freedom depends on the political environment.
With 234 newspapers and magazines, 94 radio stations and a dozen television networks, Togo has a rich media landscape. The best-established newspapers, such as the privately owned Liberté and the state-owned Togo-Presse, have the highest circulation. The only state-owned television network, Télévision Togolaise, has the biggest viewership. Nevertheless, despite the abundance of media outlets, including the appearance of new online sites, most of them operate under strong political influence.
The press freedom situation depends on the political environment. During election campaigns, self-censorship is especially common for journalists, who are subject to pressure. The state and political figures exert strong influence on how news is handled. The ruling party appoints all directors of state-owned media, as well as the president of the media regulatory agency.
Freedom of the press is recognised and guaranteed by the state. Since 2004, the press law no longer imposes prison sentences for violations, but the law is often bypassed. Language adopted in 2020 guarantees the independence of journalism and journalists’ access to information, on the condition of respecting “classified defence information”. Access to information remains difficult for journalists, especially those from privately owned media outlets that are critical of the authorities, especially concerning news about the government.
Media are facing major financial problems, a situation that has worsened with the pandemic. The Togolese Media Observatory, a moral authority at the highest regulatory level, does not have the funding to be genuinely effective.
Though journalists can take on almost all issues without fear of retaliation, they prefer to avoid topics considered taboo, such as corruption, military affairs, and the president and his family.
Journalists’ safety remains a concern in Togo, especially for investigative journalists who report on corruption or government matters. They may suffer direct and serious retaliation, as was apparent when two editors were detained for several weeks in 2021. Journalists are regularly pressured or offered benefits to take a position that favours the regime’s agenda. If they resist, they are subject to intense surveillance, as demonstrated by revelations in the Pegasus case.