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Newspaper banned indefinitely, fined for defaming president's brother; reporter assaulted in court

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 25 August 2010, the Lomé Magistrate Court indefinitely banned "Tribune d'Afrique", a privately-owned bi-monthly newspaper, for defaming Mey Gnassingbé, a brother of Togolese President, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé.

The "Tribune d'Afrique" is published in Benin and circulated in both Benin and Togo.

The newspaper has been ordered to pay one million FCFA (about US$2000) as damages and another one million FCFA for publication of "false news".

The local distributor of "Tribune d'Afrique" has also been fined one million FCFA.

The Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) correspondent in Togo reported that the newspaper has been ordered to immediately publish the judgment in three newspapers with large circulation or risk paying 100,000 FCFA (about US$200) on each day it would default in carrying out the order.

The court also ordered the withdrawal and destruction of "Tribune d'Afrique" with the offending articles currently being sold on the market.

These outrageous decisions followed a suit brought against the "Tribune d'Afrique" newspaper by Mey Gnassingbé on 14 July 2010 following news articles the newspaper published linking Mey Gnassingbé to drug trafficking.

One of the articles, published on the front-page on 2 May, was headlined: "Drug trafficking at the highest echelon of the State: Mey Gnassingbé linked to network in Togo".

According to the writ, the case of the newspaper is worsened by the fact that the "Tribune d'Afrique" displayed the photographs of Mey Gnassingbe and tagged him as "insolent middle-class".

The newspaper has since appealed against the judgment.

Komi Agbédivlo, popularly known as Didier Ledoux, a reporter of privately-owned "Liberté" daily newspaper, covering the defamation trial involving President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, was arrested and assaulted by security officers providing security at the court for photographing the court building.

Meanwhile, the defamation suit brought by President Gnassingbé against "L'Indépendant Express" has been adjourned to 29 August, following a request by the defence counsel for the court to do so.
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