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Authorities in Togo have repressed the media and prevented civilians from gathering to protest peacefully, Amnesty International said in a report published Wednesday, ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled to take place at the end of this month.

Amnesty International said in its annual report on human rights around the world that two newspapers in Togo were forced to close for several months last year, while a number of journalists were arrested or hit with hefty fines after reporting on corruption.

REWRITTEN TOGO CONSTITUTION BUCKED BY CITIZENS, STOKES DICTATORIAL FEARS

Two journalists in Togo were sentenced to three years in prison after reporting about a minister’s involvement in corruption, but both fled the country to avoid detention. The human rights organization said it had recorded instances in which detainees in prison were tortured or mistreated.

The report comes at a time of heightened tension in Togo, a country of about 8 million people that has been ruled by the same family for almost 60 years. Parliamentary elections have been pushed back until April 29, and the government have arrested opposition figures and quashed efforts to organize protests ahead of the vote.

At issue is a proposed new constitution that would scrap presidential elections permanently, giving parliament the power to choose the president instead. It is awaiting sign off by President Faure Gnassingbe. The opposition and the clergy say the legislation is an effort by Gnassingbe to prolong his rule after his mandate expires in 2025.

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