- A media regulator in Togo, Haute Autorité de l'Audiovisuel de la Communication (HAAC), has suspended the privately-owned 'Radio Victoire' for 15 days for alleged "unprofessional conduct". 'Radio Victoire', which broadcasts in the capital Lomé, is to resume operations on 23 January.
In a statement, HAAC justified its decision, accusing the station of choose not to respect the advice and opinion of the media regarding the contents of the programme, despite being issued with "several recommendations and warnings".
On the contrary, the 'Radio Victoire' management countered that HAAC's claims did not hold waters because the suspension was the results of the station's failure to comply with HAAC's demands to ban a foreign journalist, Jacques Roux, from partaking in a radio discussion on a popular sports programme, 'Fou de Foot'.
According to the Ghana-based Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Mr Roux has been continuously criticising the former President of the Togolese Confederation of Football, Rock Balakiyem Gnassingbé, who by occasion is a brother of President Faure Gnassingbé.
"We are concerned about interference in editorial decisions of the radio station as it undermines the independence of the media," declared Professor Kwame Karikari, Chief Executive Officer of WFWA, adding that "such acts lead to, and may constitute, censorship."
The media rights group urges HAAC to lift the suspension "promptly and unconditionally" and to desist from such acts, especially in a country that is still struggling very hard to end decades of the suppression of free expression.
The government Togo only recently has noted processes in negotiating a resumption of development aid from the European Union (EU), from which it has been barred for over a decade due to systematic human rights violations, including oppression of the press. The HAAC censorship of 'Radio Victoire' is the first serious case of media harassment since relations with the EU improved in December.
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