Togo: "Tribune d'Afrique" Newspaper
The ASF Network (Réseau Avocats Sans Frontières) has been mobilized on request of Reporters Wihtout Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières).
In May 2010, for publishing an article on drug trafficking mentioning the involvement of a member of the country Presidency, the newspaper “Tribune d'Afrique” was sentenced in August 2010 to the suspension of its publication.
The magazine Tribune d'Afrique is a private bimonthly based in Benin with an office in Lomé. It is distributed in seven of the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU): Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Togo and erratically, Senegal.
The Tribune d’Afrique newspaper has published in May 2010 the first of a series of three articles, entitled “The white powder that blackens the presidential palaces : Drug trafficking at the Head of State”. This article revealed the alleged involvement of Mey Gnassingbé, half-brother of the current Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé and Special Adviser to the Presidency, in drug trafficking.
Following this publication, Mey Gnassingbé complaint against Tribune d'Afrique for "publication of false news and defamation."
The first hearing was held on 14 July 2010 and ended with an adjournment to August 10, 2010.
After an expeditious trial on the 10 August 2010, where the defendants were not represented by a lawyer, the criminal court of Lomé delivered its verdict the 25 August 2010: it condemns Tribune d’Afrique to pay 60 million CFA francs of damages to Mey Gnassingbé, to a fine of 6 million CFA francs for "publishing false information" and prohibits the distribution and sale of Tribune d'Afrique in Togo. He also imposed Aurel KEDOTE (ed.), Cudjoe Amekudzi (reporter), Marlene de la Bardonnie (Executive Director of the Journal), a fine of 2 million CFA francs each.
Max Savi Carmel, head of Tribune d’Afrique newspaper, and Aurel Kedoté, Cudjoe Amekudzi and Marlène de la Bardonnie appealed the decisions of the Court the 26 August 2010.
The associations Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Lawyers Without Borders (ASF) provide moral and legal support to Tribune d’Afrique. Mr Jil-Benoït Afangbedji, lawyer of ASF Togo, is one of the defense attorneys in this case.
On July 14, the Lomé Court of Appeal reduced the fine imposed on the newspaper to 10 million CFA francs (15,000 Euros), instead of 60 million (over 90 000 Euros) pronounced the 25 August 2010 in first instance. The prohibition of circulation, publication and sale of the magazine was set at three months, meaning that the paper could resume at any time since it was not published for a long time.
The lawyer of the magazine, mandated by the ASF Network Mr Jil-Benoît Kossi Afangbedji, provides an appeal for the complete withdrawal of the charges.
May 2010: Publication by Tribune d’Afrique of the first of a series of three articles, entitled “The white powder that blackens the presidential palaces : Drug trafficking at the Head of State” involving Mey Gnassingbé, half-brother of the current President of Togo.
May 2010: Fillig of complaint by Mey Gnassingbé against Tribune d’Afrique, for “publication of false news and defamation”
14 July 2010: First hearing, postponed to 10 August 2010.
10 august 2010: Second quick hearing without the presence of lawyers from the newspaper "Tribune d'Afrique"
25 august 2010: Deliberations of the court:
-Conviction of "Tribune d’Afrique" to pay 60 million CFA francs in damages to Mey Gnassingbé, to a fine of 6,000,000 francs CFA for "publishing false information"
-Prohibition of distribution and sale of "Tribune d'Afrique" in Togo
-Conviction of Aurel Kedote (ed.), Cudjoe Amekudzi (reporter), and Marlene de la Bardonnie (Director General of the newspaper) to a fine of 2 million CFA francs each
26 August 2010: Appeal by the newspaper Tribune d’Afrique.
September 2010: Permanent ban on publication of Tribune d'Afrique, the suspensive effect of the appeal being denied
10 February 2011: First hearing of the appeal postponed to 14 April 2011 at the request of complainants claiming a lack of time to prepare their case
14 April 2011: Second hearing of the appeal.
25 May 2011: Visit of Max Savi Carmel to Toulouse – 3 interviews.
14 July 2011: The Lomé Court of Appeal condemns Beninese newspaper "Tribune Afrique" to 3 months of provisional suspension and 10 million CFA francs in damages, for May Gnassingbé.
The newspaper appealed in cassation.
9 February 2012: Arrest of Max Savi-Carmel.