Two Togolese journalists were indicted and jailed in Lomé on Wednesday, accused of "defamation" after claiming on social networks that a minister had had the equivalent of 600,000 euros stolen from his home, their relatives said.
Loïc Lawson, publication director of the newspaper Flambeau des Démocrates, and Anani Sossou, a freelance journalist, were taken into custody on Monday.
They are being prosecuted for "defamation and attack on the honor of the Minister and incitement to revolt", for having claimed on social networks that the Minister of Urban Planning, Housing and Land Reform, Kodjo Adedze, had had 400 million FCFA (604,875 euros) stolen from his home.
The Minister, who had indeed reported the burglary to the police without the amount being made public, had complained about them.
On Monday, the journalists retracted their claims, explaining on Facebook that "extensive investigations" had shown that "the amount communicated was overestimated and would not reach the sum of 400 million FCFA".
"The two journalists were taken to the prison (in Lomé) on Wednesday at around 10am. They appeared before the first deputy on Tuesday evening, who interviewed them for around thirty minutes, before referring them to the examining magistrate who issued them with a committal order", Magloire Têko Kinvi, editor-in-chief of Le Flambeau des Démocrates, told AFP.
In a message posted on X (formerly Twitter), the journalists' rights organization Reporters sans frontières called for their immediate release.
As did the International Union of the French-speaking Press (UPF), which demanded the "release" of the two journalists in a press release issued on Tuesday. Loïc Lawson is president of the Togolese section of the Union de la presse francophone (UPF-Togo).
The UPF called on the authorities to "guarantee them fair and transparent treatment" while respecting "freedom of the press" and "the right to information".
In Togo, social networks are excluded from the scope of the law on the press and communication code, which came into force this year. In the event of infringement, prosecution is based on the penal code.
Last March, two Togolese journalists were sentenced in absentia to three years imprisonment by the Lomé High Court, notably for "insulting authority" and "spreading false information on social networks", following complaints from two ministers, including Mr. Adedze.