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President Gnassingbé launches defamation lawsuit against newspaper

(MFWA/IFEX) - On August 25, 2010 the Lomé Magistrate Court will hear a suit brought by President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé against the privately-owned weekly "L'Indépendant Express", over articles published by the newspaper that the president has deemed insulting and defamatory.

MFWA's correspondent in Togo reported that the writ, which accused the newspaper of publishing and disseminating false information, was handed to managing editor Carlos Komlanvi Ketohou on August 18.

President Gnassingbé is demanding 100 million FCFA (approx. US$200,000) in damages over the "enormous harm" to his reputation. The writ said the offence is punishable under Articles 82 and 92 of the Press and Communication Code and Article 58 of Togo's Criminal Code.

In June, "L'Indépendant Express" published two issues accusing President Gnassingbé of fighting with a Togolese soccer star, Emmanuel Shéyi Adébayor, over a beauty queen, a former Miss Togo, which had resulted in the star quitting the national team.

The MFWA correspondent said Issue No. 128, of June 22, was headlined: "Secret Dossier: the hidden side of a pitched squabble: Faure and Shéyi Adébayor clash over a woman."

MFWA views Gnassingbé's lawsuit as a complete departure from the past. Although the president is demanding huge damages that could cripple the newspaper, journalists are now free to state their cases in court. During the late Gnassingbé Eyadema's regime, journalists were hounded, jailed or "disappeared" for reporting on such issues.

MFWA urges President Gnassingbé to withdraw the case against the newspaper.

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