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DRAFT BILL IMPOSES HEAVIER SENTENCES ON JOURNALISTS

The government of Togo has come under fire for proposing a new bill that would impose heavier fines and prison sentences for defaming or insulting the president and other state institutions.

If passed, the proposed bill would amend the Press Code to increase the penalty for "insulting the Head of State" to up to five years in jail without parole and up to US$7,400 in fines, say the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC). The current penalty is a jail term of one to six months.

The bill also proposes introducing penalties of up to two years in prison for those who insult various government officials and institutions, and up to three years in jail for those who defame "courts, tribunals, armed forces, security forces, constituent bodies and the public administration."

In the past two years, there have been numerous cases of government officials jailing and harassing journalists, seizing newspaper print runs and closing down media outlets critical of the government, CPJ says. "Togo has one of the most repressive climates for journalists in Africa," the group says.

For more information, see www.cpj.org, www.rsf.org and www.wpfc.org.


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