Algerian media director sentenced to six months in prison over editorial

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the six-month prison sentence that a court in the Algiers district of Sidi M’hamed imposed on media director Ihsane El Kadi on 7 June for an editorial. The Algerian authorities must respect press freedom and stop persecuting the media, RSF says.

The sentence, which included a 50,000-dinar fine, was not accompanied by a detention order, so Ihsane El Kadi remains free for the time being.

The director of the online radio station Radio M and the news website Maghreb Émergent, El Kadi was convicted of “disseminating false information liable to endanger national unity,” “disrupting elections” and "reopening the issue of on the national tragedy” – a reference to the 1991-2002 civil war.

The charges were brought by former communication minister Amar Belhimer in response to an editorial on the Radio M blog in which El Kadi said the “Hirak” pro-democracy protest movement should have a broader base.

During the trial hearing on 17 May, El Kadi was admonished by the court for refusing to respond to questions about the content of his editorial on the grounds that a judge has no authority over what journalists write. He had previously refused to answer questions about the editorial during repeated interrogation by security agency officials.

RSF condemns the verdict and sentence, and the failure to respect the Algerian law banning prison sentences for press offences.

“This verdict is evidence of the judicial harassment that Ihsane El Kadi has endured for years, and contradicts what the Algerian authorities claim about respecting freedom of the press and freedom of opinion in their country,” said RSF’s North Africa representative, Khaled Drareni,

El Kadi and the media outlets he runs, which are part of the Interface Médias group, are well known for their editorial independence and the authorities have had their sights on them for a long time. Interface Médias received an unannounced inspection visit by a 12-member Algiers provincial commission on 14 November.

Radio M journalist Kenza Khattou was given a three-month suspended prison sentence in June 2021 on a charge of “insulting state authority” – a conviction that was overturned on appeal the following December. Nabil Mellah, the businessman who has been Radio M’s official advertiser and sponsor for years, has been detained preventively for more than a year, since May 2021, supposedly for violating exchange control and money-laundering regulations.

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