February 14, 2017

Unacceptable police violence against newspaper reporter

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the way gendarmes handcuffed and tortured newspaper reporter Robert Avotor when he tried to cover a land dispute in a Lomé suburb on 7 February.

The gendarmes arrested Avotor after first ordering him to leave the scene of the dispute in the western suburb Akato-Viépé, although he was wearing a press vest and had his press card. He works for the biweekly L‘Alternative.

After handcuffing and torturing him for more than two hours, the gendarmes took him to the gendarmerie base in Sagbado, where they deleted the photos in his camera and mobile phone and then released him.

“We strongly condemn the violent and degrading way this journalist was treated and we call for an investigation so that those responsible are punished,” RSF editor-in-chief Virginie Dangles. “We also remind the authorities that journalists must be free to cover events in the field.”

The Togolese Media Observatory (OTM), Togo Independent Journalists Union (UJIT) and National Press Owners Council (CONAPP) also condemned the violence in a joint statement.

Their statement urged “the ministry of security to take the appropriate measures against those responsible for this highly reprehensible act, which jeopardizes the good working relations that the security forces and media professionals are trying to establish.”

Togo is ranked 88th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.