Togo faults video journalist over French colonel scandal

19th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Togo on Thursday faulted a journalist who filmed a French military officer threatening a photographer in the West African nation, saying he should have considered the trouble the footage would cause.

The French lieutenant colonel's threats drew widespread condemnation last week after the video appeared on YouTube and damaged France's image in Africa, where it wields heavy influence over its former colonies, including Togo.

Togo's defence ministry said it did not support Lieutenant Colonel Romuald Letondot's actions, but said it was concerned whether publicity over the incident could damage relations between the two countries.

"This unfortunate incident that arose from a misunderstanding could have been contained if, unfortunately, the scene of the altercation had not been filmed by a witness," it said in a statement.

The video journalist posted the footage on the Internet "without concern for the serious consequences that the video may have."

It said such consequences involved not only the French officer, who was a "victim of protesters' vandalism for no reason," but also for Togo, which "maintains friendly relations with all nations of the world".

Letondot has apologised to press photographer Didier Ledoux, who works for the Togolese weekly Liberte, but the video has been viewed more than 700,000 times on YouTube and the scandal has tarnished France's image in Africa.

The officer, who was employed by the French foreign ministry as an advisor to the Togolese military, is seen telling Ledoux to erase pictures from his camera and ordering Togolese riot police to arrest him.

The argument erupted after the French officer's vehicle was held up during an opposition protest in the streets of Lome and Ledoux took his picture.

Letondot told French television that he had got out of his official car to show a Togolese policeman that it had been damaged by a stone-throwing demonstrator and was surprised to be photographed.

Letondot has been recalled from Togo to France and sanctioned.

© 2010 AFP

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