Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 23 (of 30)
Political Environment: 29 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 22 (of 30)
Total Score: 74 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Freedom of speech and of the press have legal protection in Togo, but these are often ignored or overlooked by the administration. In 2004, in a deal to end trade sanctions from the European Union, President Gnassingbe Eyadema initiated legal improvements to the status of press freedom, including abolishing prison sentences for libel and prohibiting the government from seizing and closing media outlets without judicial approval. However, following Eyadema's death in 2005, these legal improvements were disregarded as his son Faure Gnassingbe took over the presidency and began targeting and harassing independent media outlets in the wave of violence intended to secure his hold on power.

The situation has improved over the last two year's as Gnassingbe's seat in the presidency is now secure, but many of the authoritarian habits of his administration have not disappeared. In particular, the High Authority for Audiovisual Communications (HAAC), which was intended to be an independent body to protect press freedom and ensure ethical standards is now used more as the censorship arm of the administration and resides permanently in the breast pocket of the presidency. In fact, the greatest threat faced by Togolese journalists in 2007 was from the HAAC's arbitrary banning of journalists or suspension of media outlets. According to the legislation passed in 2004 by Eyadema, a court order is required to close a media outlet; no judicial consent was given for any of the HAAC's 2007 suspensions. A total of four different media outlets were temporarily banned during the year including one radio station, Radio Victoire, which was suspended for "unprofessional conduct" after refusing to ban a controversial foreign journalist, Jacques Roux, from a radio discussion. Three newspapers were also suspended beginning in June. The Trumpet received the longest sentence of the three, remaining shuttered until October, for a series of articles critical of the University of Lome. Another paper, The Republic Courier, received its suspension for an article directly critical of the HAAC. Similarly, an individual journalist and press freedom advocate, Daniel Lawson-Drackey, was indefinitely banned by the HAAC from practicing journalism or from working with any media outlets after he criticized the minister of territorial administration. Nana FM, a radio station closely associated with Lawson-Drackey, was explicitly banned from working with him.

The other factor seriously jeopardizing the independence of the Togolese press is the culture of impunity that has pervaded the country since 2005. A number of direct attacks on journalists were perpetrated in 2005, none of which have since been investigated, no culprits arrested, no trials begun. While no instances of physical attacks or harassment against journalists were reported for 2007, journalists are well aware that no action is likely to be taken if they report such crimes.

Despite frequent attempts at intimidating the press, Togo does house a lively and diverse independent media, even though many private print and broadcast outlets are heavily politicized. There are innumerable media outlets in Togo, though the cost of regularly maintaining such an outlet is high causing many to publish or broadcast infrequently. The government runs Togo's only daily publishing newspaper, Togo Press, and the only national television station, Togo Television, while four private television stations are only able to operate in a limited geographical space. Access to the internet was generally unrestricted. While there are reports that its content has been monitored, 5.4 percent of the population was able to access this new medium in 2007.

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