Togo journalists strike over law on media sanctions

Togolese journalists went on strike on Tuesday over a new law allowing a government agency in the West African nation to sanction the news media without bringing the case to court.

The law, passed by the parliament last month, empowers the High Authority for Broadcast and Communication to temporarily suspend media bodies or withdraw their licences.

Response to the call for the one-day strike was mixed, with several private radio stations participating and at least five newspapers out of about a dozen usually published on Tuesdays unavailable.

Only two of the five television stations participated in the strike. Two of those which did not participate are considered close to the government.

State-run media were working normally.

"At the moment, we are very satisfied because the strike call was largely heeded, particularly by the broadcast media," the president of the coalition SOS Journalist in Danger, Ferdinand Ayite, told AFP.

The protesting media organisations have filed a suit at the Constitutional Court to seek annulment of the new law, he said.

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

Togo has been led by the same family for more than four decades.

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 people.