The sub-regional rights body, Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Thursday urged the Togolese government to drop a newly-passed law with 'discretionary powers to impose sanctions on the media without recourse to judicial processes'.
In a MFWA statement, received here by PANA Friday, the rights body urged Togo to do more when it comes to ensuring media freedom and freedom of expression.
The Togolese parliament is said to have recently passed a new law granting the country's media regulatory body, the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC), such 'discretionary powers' as was the 'practice under the previous law'.
'MFWA calls on the Togolese government to improve the freedom of expression and media rights environment in Togo by withdrawing this law,' the statement noted.
According to MFWA, Togo has already been rated a “partly free” freedom of expression country over the years, as stated in various international freedom of expression reports.
MFWA states that the new law specifically empowers the head of Togo's regulatory body to sanction or compel a media organisation to withdraw a publication.
It added that the nine-member regulatory body is chaired by an appointee of the country's President as well as three other members.
'It is, therefore, feared that the granting of discretionary powers to the regulatory body could further cripple media freedom in the country,' the statement added.
MFWA also argued that the new law contravened Togo's constitution which stated- “the media cannot be subject to any preliminary authorisation, be cautioned or censored or other barriers. No publication shall be banned from circulation except by virtue of a court decision.”
The rights body further recalled that Togo's previous law, passed in 2009, granted the HAAC additional powers to impose severe sanctions on the media.
It was said to have allowed the HAAC to withdraw licence, seize equipment and/or suspend a publication for a period of six months.