Jonathan Togo arrested Pics

Some 50 journalists on Friday staged a sit-in near police headquarters in Togo's capital, Lome, to demand the release of a colleague held on suspicion of defaming the country's security minister.

Bonero Lawson-Betum, head of the monthly publication La Nouvelle, was arrested and placed in custody on May 19 in connection with a series of articles on his Facebook page.

The articles related to the security minister, Colonel Yark Damehame, and his family.

A journalist looks at security forces preventing a crowd of several hundred journalists and members of the public from protesting in front of the Palais des ...

A journalist looks at security forces preventing a crowd of several hundred journalists and members of the public from protesting in front of the Palais des Congres in Lome on February 19, 2013 ©Daniel Hayduk (AFP/File)

Media freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) described the journalist's detention as "arbitrary" and urged the Togolese authorities to free him immediately.

Lawson-Betum has been critical of Togo's government. His newspaper was suspended in July 2012 by media regulators on the grounds of lack of documentation.

Friday's sit-in had been arranged for outside the headquarters of the police criminal investigation department (DCPJ) but the area was cordoned off, forcing the protesters 300 metres down the road.

"We are simply demanding that our colleague be freed, " said Zeus Aziadouvo, head of Togolese press employers' body the PPT.

"The minister has accused our colleague of publishing on Facebook detrimental articles against him, the honour of his family and threats against his daughter, who lives in Bordeaux, France.

"In reality, he didn't write these articles but another blogger with whom he is friends on Facebook."

"Mr Lawson-Betum was seized in the middle of the street and held at the DCPJ where he was told of the complaint lodged by the security minister. His house was then searched and work material taken away."

Police officials refused to comment.

Togo ranks 80th out of 180 countries in RSF's Press Freedom Index.

The group said that independent media, particularly those on-line, had been blocked since the re-election of Faure Gnassingbe as president in April, which was contested by the main opposition.

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