Algeria must stop violating press freedom before Khaled Drareni appeal

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Algerian authorities to revert to respect for truth, law, the constitution and the country’s international obligations instead of violating press freedom more and more in the run-up to imprisoned journalist Khaled Drareni’s appeal hearing.

Just over two weeks after Drareni was sentenced on 10 August to three years in prison and a fine of 50,000 dinars (330 euros), court officials in Algiers announced yesterday that his appeal will be heard on 8 September.

The editor of the Casbah Tribune news site and Algeria correspondent of RSF and the French TV channel TV5 Monde, Drareni was convicted of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “endangering national unity” because of his coverage of Algeria’s “Hirak” protest movement.

Khaled Drareni’s appeal hearing will be an opportunity for the Algerian authorities to stop going from bad to worse in terms of press freedom violations,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “It will provide the justice system with the occasion to revert to factual truth and respect for the law, the constitution and Algeria’s international obligations.”

Until now, the press freedom situation has continued to worsen and several decisions since Drareni’s conviction confirm that the Algerian authorities keep on taking an ever tougher approach toward independent journalists and media outlets.

Abdelkrim Zeghileche, an activist and founder of Sarbacane web radio who has been held since 23 June, was sentenced by a criminal court in the northeastern city of Constantine on 24 August to two years in prison and a fine of 100,000 dinars (660 euros) on charges of insulting the president and endangering national unity because of Facebook posts calling for the creation of a new political party.

Mustapha Bendjama, the editor of the regional daily Le Provincial in the northeastern city of Annaba, continues to be subjected to judicial harassment and is facing the possibility of at least three years in prison in a total of four cases brought against him over his social media posts about the Hirak protests in 2019. 

From February 2019 to March 2020, Bendjama was detained at least nine times by the police while filming protests in Annaba, he was taken to a police station seven times and he was twice kept in police custody for 48 hours.

The L’Avant-Garde Algérie news website has meanwhile been blocked again within Algeria since 24 August. It was blocked for the first time in May, when the censorship lasted 20 days. One other independent news website is currently inaccessible Algeria.

Algeria is ranked 146th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index, five places lower than in 2019 and 27 places lower than in 2015.

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Updated on 26.08.2020