Two journalists from Togo, Loïc Lawson, the director of Flambeau des Démocrates newspaper, and Anani Sossou, a freelance journalist, were arrested and imprisoned in Lomé. They face accusations of defamation after making claims on social media alleging that a minister had experienced a theft of approximately 600,000 euros from his residence, as reported by their relatives.
The journalists asserted that Kodjo Adedze, the Minister of Urban Planning, Housing, and Land Reform, had 400 million FCFA (equivalent to 604,875 euros) stolen from his home. This claim led to charges of defamation, dishonoring the minister, and incitement to revolt against the journalists.
Although the Minister had reported the burglary to the police without disclosing the amount stolen, he subsequently filed a complaint against the journalists for their allegations.
The journalists retracted their statements on social media, acknowledging that further investigations revealed an overestimation of the communicated amount, which would not reach the previously claimed 400 million FCFA.
Magloire Têko Kinvi, editor-in-chief of Le Flambeau des Démocrates, informed AFP that the journalists were taken into custody on Monday and subsequently transferred to prison in Lomé on Wednesday morning following a hearing with the examining magistrate.
Reporters Without Borders and the International Union of the French-speaking Press (UPF) have called for the immediate release of the journalists. Loïc Lawson, one of the detained journalists, is also the president of UPF-Togo.
The UPF urged authorities to ensure fair treatment for the journalists, respecting press freedom and the right to information.
In Togo, social networks fall outside the scope of the press and communication code law, in effect this year. Violations in these spaces lead to prosecution under the penal code.
This incident follows a similar case in March, where two Togolese journalists were sentenced in absentia to three years in prison by the Lomé High Court. They were charged with insulting authority and spreading false information on social networks, based on complaints from two ministers, including Minister Adedze.