On Wednesday in Lomé, two Togolese journalists found themselves indicted and imprisoned, facing charges of “defamation” after asserting on social media that a minister had fallen victim to a theft equivalent to 600,000 euros, as reported by their relatives.

Loïc Lawson, the director of publication for the Flambeau des Démocrates newspaper, and Anani Sossou, a freelance journalist, were taken into custody on Monday. They are being prosecuted for “defamation and attack on the honor of the Minister and incitement to revolt” for alleging on social media that the Minister of Urban Planning, Housing, and Land Reform, Kodjo Adedze, had 400 million FCFA (604,875 euros) stolen from his residence. The Minister had reported the burglary to the police without disclosing the amount, subsequently filing a complaint against the journalists.

On Monday, the journalists retracted their claims on Facebook, stating that “extensive investigations” revealed the communicated amount was overestimated and did not reach the sum of 400 million FCFA.

Magloire Têko Kinvi, the editor-in-chief of Le Flambeau des Démocrates, informed AFP that the journalists were taken to prison in Lomé on Wednesday around 10 am. They had appeared before the first deputy on Tuesday evening, who interviewed them for approximately thirty minutes before referring them to the examining magistrate, who issued a committal order.

Reporters Without Borders, in a message on X (formerly Twitter), and the International Union of the French-speaking Press (UPF) both called for the immediate release of the journalists. The UPF, in a press release on Tuesday, demanded the “release” of the two journalists, emphasizing the need for “fair and transparent treatment,” respecting “freedom of the press” and “the right to information.”

In Togo, social networks fall outside the purview of the law on the press and communication code, effective this year. In cases of infringement, prosecution is based on the penal code. In a similar incident last March, two Togolese journalists were sentenced in absentia to three years imprisonment by the Lomé High Court for charges including “insulting authority” and “spreading false information on social networks,” following complaints from two ministers, including Mr. Adedze.

Quest: Ezimekume Dominion.

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