European Parliament calls on Algeria to release journalist Ihsane El Kadi and respect press freedom
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hails the European Parliament’s adoption of an urgency resolution condemning the increase in press freedom violations in Algeria and calling for journalist Ihsane El Kadi’s immediate and unconditional release.
“With this resolution, the European Parliament has shown that it does not intend to remain silent in response to the crackdown on the last independent media outlets in Algeria, even though this country is an important economic partner. With Ihsane El Kadi’s appeal due to be heard in the coming days, we urge the European Commission and EU member states to do everything possible to ensure that this journalist recovers his freedom. The Algerian authorities need to realise that muzzling the media is a dangerous path that, in the long run, will not be to their advantage.
Passed today (11 May) by a big majority (536 votes for, 4 against and 18 abstentions), the European Parliament’s urgency resolution voices concern about the sharp decline in press freedom in Algeria since the start of the “Hirak” protests in 2019, and about the harassment of journalists. In particular, the MEPs are calling for media owner Ihsane El Kadi’s release.
A widely respected journalist who ran two of Algeria’s few remaining independent media outlets, Radio M and Maghreb Emergent, El Kadi has been detained since late December and was sentenced to three years in prison on 2 April on utterly spurious charges of illegal fund-raising and endangering state security and public order. His media company, Interface Médias, has been dissolved and its assets seized.
The arrest of El Kadi, who had been subjected to growing political and judicial harassment for years, caused an outcry and prompted a major international support campaign initiated by RSF. A joint appeal for his release was issued in early January by 16 international media owners and editors, including Novaya Gazeta editor and 2021 Nobel peace laureate Dmitry Muratov.
The European Parliament’s resolution condemns the increase in the blocking of critical news websites and publications, and calls for the reopening of closed media outlets and an end to the arrests and detention of journalists.
The criminalisation of free speech in Algeria’s penal code on the pretext of defending national security is also denounced by the MEPs, who call for the penal code to be amended and for Algeria’s legislation to be brought into line with international human rights standards.
Finally, the resolution urges the Algerian authorities to ensure that foreign journalists and media outlets are given the visas and permits they need to be able to report freely in Algeria.
Algeria has fallen two places in RSF’s latest World Press Freedom Index and is now ranked 136th out of 180 countries.