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Media groups protest repressive law

A draft law passed by the Togolese parliament on 30 October gives the state broadcasting council greater powers to impose severe sanctions against the media, reports the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). Ahead of elections, this coercive media law will restrict free and pluralistic debate.

The High Council for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC) now has the right to seize equipment, to suspend publication for six months and withdraw press cards.

Already this year, the HAAC banned several publications and, in April, suspended interactive programmes on the country's radio and television stations for one week, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Now, the HAAC has the ability to conduct hearings with journalists "responsible for serious errors"; a concept that is subjective. The HAAC should not be turned into the "media police," says RSF.

MFWA reports that media groups and freedom of expression organisations in Togo have joined forces to protest the new law. The coalition released a statement on 2 November saying the amendment was an attempt "to gag the private press during the 2010 presidential elections." There has also been condemnation of the law from opposition parties.

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