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Newspaper "Golfe Info" suspended, fined

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 16 December 2009, the Magistrate Court of Lome, capital of Togo, ordered "Golfe Info", a privately-owned tri-weekly newspaper to pay FCFA 80 million (approx. US$172,000) as damages to the country's National Intelligence Agency (ANR) for "deceitfully making allegations and imputing facts likely to injure the esteem and reputation" of the agency.

The newspaper has been suspended from publishing for two months and has also been asked to pay a fine of FCFA 1.5 million (approx. US$3,220) in accordance with the Press and Communication Code of Togo.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) correspondent in Togo reported that the fine is a result of a complaint brought against "Golfe Info" by the ANR following a 30 September front-page article.

The article, headlined: "Drug trafficking in Togo: More embarrassment for the Presidency", alleged that Eugène Atigan-Améti, a national TV presenter, who had been arrested in September at Lome International Airport for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking, was a project officer with the presidency.

The newspaper also claimed it had been informed by a reliable source at the ANR that Atigan-Améti was travelling on a diplomatic passport on behalf of Mey Gnassingbé, a half-brother of the President Faure Gnassingbé. The ANR denied this information and instituted legal action against the newspaper.

The correspondent said "Golfe Info", which has been very critical of the government, reported that the arrest of Atigan-Améti had caused embarrassment for the government.

The court also directed the newspaper to retract the information when the publication resumes.

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