Algeria’s judicial harassment of independent media director must stop, RSF says
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Algerian authorities to stop hounding independent media director Ihsane El Kadi with the aim of reining in his outspoken comments. El Kadi, who was sentenced to six months in prison in June but remains free pending the outcome of a repeatedly postponed appeal hearing, was interrogated twice in the space of a week at the end of last month, first by gendarmes and then by intelligence officials.
“Ihsane El Kadi, who runs the last islands of media freedom in Algeria, is being subjected to endless harassment aimed at silencing him. This pressure must stop. As Algeria’s constitution enshrines freedom of opinion, this journalist is completely within his rights to express himself and to exercise his profession freely. Algeria has nothing to gain by continuing this media control policy.
The most recent interrogation of El Kadi was on 27 November. “Follow us – you know the address,” intelligence officials told him after suddenly appearing in the middle of the afternoon at the headquarters of the Interface Médias group in downtown Algiers, where he runs the online radio station Radio M and the news website Maghreb Émergent.
So, El Kadi followed them to the Antar barracks where he was interrogated for several hours before being released in the early evening. In a brief press release, he simply described the interrogation as “An acquisition of information about media content without any legal action.”
The specific reason is said to have been the comments he made on 22 November to a radio station, Radio des Sans Voix, in which he said the government was subjecting members of the political opposition to systematic persecution and judicial harassment because it lacked any confidence in itself.
It was on 22 November that El Kadi was subjected to the first of the two recent interrogations. Summoned to the gendarmerie office in the Algiers district of Bir Mourad Rais in connection with an inspection of Radio M a year ago – when the radio station received a visit by a joint team from the Algiers provincial government and the ministry of trade – he was questioned about how Interface Médias operates, about Radio M’s editorial policy, and about the criticism of the government that he has expressed in many of his broadcasts.
El Kadi was already familiar with Antar barracks, the location of the second interrogation. It was there that he was taken on 10 June 2021, on the eve of parliamentary elections, and was detained for 30 hours on a range of charges that included “disseminating false information liable to endanger national unity,” “disrupting elections” and "reopening the issue of the national tragedy” – a reference to the 1992-2002 civil war. Khaled Drareni, the journalist who is now RSF’s North Africa representative, and Karim Tabbou, a journalist who is a member of the opposition, were also detained.
El Kadi received the six-month prison sentence (and a 50,000-dinar fine) on 7 June 2022 from a court in the Algiers district of Sidi M’hamed as a result of a complaint by then communication minister Amar Belhimer in response to an op-ed on the Radio M website in which he said the “Hirak” pro-democracy protest movement should try to accommodate certain conservative Islamic opposition currents.
He was convicted on the same charges, namely “disseminating false information liable to endanger national unity,” “disrupting elections” and "reopening the issue of the national tragedy.” Originally scheduled to be heard in July, his appeal is currently due to be heard on 11 December.
El Kadi has been subjected to mounting intimidation attempts for years. Harassment of journalists has increased significantly in Algeria since the Hirak opposition movement emerged in February 2019.