Algerian blogger jailed over interview with “Israeli diplomat”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the disproportionate charges brought against Touati Marzoug, an Algerian blogger who is facing up to 25 years in prison over a video interview with a person identified as “Israeli diplomat.”
Marzoug has been held in El Khemis prison since 17 January in connection with the Skype interview, in which his interviewee made the politically sensitive claim that Israel had a “liaison office” in Algiers prior to 2000. Marzoug posted the interview online on 9 January.
He is facing a possible sentence of 10 to 20 years in jail under article 71-3 of Algeria’s penal code, which penalizes “talking to the agents of a foreign power and complicity liable to harm Algeria’s diplomatic situation.”
And he is facing an additional one to five years in prison under article 100 punishing “direct provocation by the same means [statement made publicly, posted or in print] inciting an armed mob.”
“Even if the statements made in this interview are no longer verifiable, these charges under the penal code are unjustified,” RSF editor-in-chief Virginie Dangles said.
“Let’s not forget journalist Mohamed Tamalt’s tragic death in detention on 11 December after being jailed in connection with his Facebook posts. Tamalt was also prosecuted and convicted under the penal code, although there is a press code that has abolished prison sentences for news and information providers.”
Algeria’s constitution, as revised in February 2016, forbids arbitrary detention and stresses the exceptional nature of pre-trial detention.
In report published in December, RSF urged the Algerian authorities to amend the criminal code, abolishing prison terms for media offences, including insult, contempt and defamation, in order to comply with the 2016 constitution and with Algeria’s human rights obligations, including its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Algeria is ranked 129th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.