On February 5, the Broadcast and Communications High Authority (HAAC), Togo’s media regulator, suspended the privately owned L’Alternative for four months, according to a copy of the suspension order reviewed by CPJ.
The newspaper has not printed since, nor continued updating its website, according to L’Alternative publication director Ferdinand Mensah Ayité, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app. Ayité told CPJ he has also faced legal harassment in recent months.
“The persistent harassment and attempts to intimidate journalist Ferdinand Ayité and the L’Alternative newspaper sends a signal heard around the world that authorities in Togo will not permit the press to work freely,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator. “Togo should prioritize the protection of investigative journalism, not seek to smother it.”
The HAAC suspension order said that a February 2 report in the paper violated professional and ethical standards, and referenced a February 3 complaint by Koffi Tsolenyanu, Togo’s Minister of Urbanism, Housing, and Land Reform, alleging that the story contained “false information, offense, and defamation.”
The order alleged that the newspaper had not sufficiently attempted to contact Tsolenyanu before publication, and provided inadequate proof for its claims. The article, which CPJ reviewed, alleged that Tsolenyanu was involved in fraud connected to the estate of a deceased businessman.
The Broadcast and Communications High Authority (HAAC)