Togo police battle protesting journalists

Opposition supporters face police officers after trying to hold a sit-in near the Presidency in Lome on March 14, 2013 to protest against new media law. Organisers said three journalists were injured in the incident near the presidential palace. PHOTO | AFP 

Togolese security forces fired tear gas on Thursday to break up a protest of some 50 journalists demonstrating against a controversial new law allowing for sanctions against the media.
Organisers said three journalists were injured in the incident near the presidential palace.

"We came in front of the presidential palace to draw the attention of the president to the new law when security forces fired tear gas at us," the president of the coalition SOS Journalist in Danger, Mr Ferdinand Ayite, told AFP.

A member of the organisation, Mr Augustin Amega, said that the mayor of Lome had warned the protesters to move away from the presidential palace for security reasons, but they refused, arguing that their protest was peaceful.

Togo's security forces often use tear gas to disperse protesters.

The journalists were protesting against a new law passed by the parliament last month that empowers the High Authority for Broadcast and Communication to suspend or revoke the licences of media bodies without going through the courts.

Several private newspapers, radio and television stations staged a one-day protest strike on Tuesday over the law.

The media regulatory agency, known as HAAC, has five members chosen by the national assembly and four by the president.

President Faure Gnassingbe's father Gnassingbe Eyadema ruled the country for 38 years with an iron fist until his death in 2005, after which the military installed his son in power.

Faure Gnassingbe has since won elections in 2005 and 2010, although the opposition disputes these victories in the country of some six million.

Legislative elections, earlier scheduled for October, have been postponed to a date yet to be announced.

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