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Video of French officer threatening a journalist sparks outrage

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-08-13

A shocking video has come to light which shows a French military officer threatening and intimidating a journalist in Togo’s capital Lome at an opposition demonstration.

A video has been posted on the content sharing website YouTube which shows a member of the French army (who have a base in the area) intimidating and threatening a journalist.

Didier Ledoux, a Togolese journalist, was covering an opposition rally on Tuesday in Togo’s capital Lome. Standing outside the rally he attempted to take a photo of Lieutenant-Colonel Romuald Létondot, a French military officer.

The officer immediately demanded that the journalist delete the photograph, but Ledoux refused. The video clearly shows the French officer threatening Ledoux with severe consequences if the photo is not immediately deleted.

The video shows Ledoux trying to reason with the officer, saying that he is simply doing his job. Jostling the journalist, the French officer retorts, “I don’t care if you’re a journalist, delete that photo right away […] Do you know who I am? I am the councillor to the General Staff of the Army. Do you want me to call the RCGP (Commando unit of the Togolese Presidential Guard)?"

Ledoux is a journalist with the Togolese newspaper La Liberté. The newspaper reported on Wednesday that the journalist was only allowed to leave the rally after he deleted the officer’s picture. In an article recounting the incident, the daily argues, "It's odd that a French officer, trained in France, a country of human rights, threatens to call on the presidential guard to settle a misunderstanding with a journalist who is simply doing his job."

A spokesman for the French Ministry of Defence told FRANCE24 that it did not support the French officer’s behaviour, stating "Freedom of the press is, for us, a fundamental value." However, the military refused to confirm if any action was being taken against the officer in question.

On Thursday, Létondot was forced to apologise to Ledoux at the French embassy in the Togolese capital.

The story has been splashed across the French newspapers, with the French press and public alike condemning the video’s content. However, surprisingly, the reaction in Togo has been more muted. FRANCE24’s sister radio station, RFI, has a correspondent in Togo, Peter Dogbe, who reports that, “Very few people in Togo are interested in a problem between a military officer and a journalist.”

Date created : 2010-08-11

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