France 24’s former correspondent, production team in Algeria about to go on trial
The French TV news channel France 24’s former correspondent in Algeria, its former producer and two other persons are finally due to go on trial tomorrow (8 March) in the Algiers district of Bir Mourad Raïs in a case dating back to 2019 that highlights the problems for foreign media outlets and their correspondents in Algeria, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Reporter Moncef Aït Kaci, his former producer Ramdane Rahmouni and the two other defendants are accused under articles 95 and 96 of the Algeria criminal code of receiving money from abroad for illegal purposes. They have to prove that they acted solely as the representatives of a TV channel that had interviewed President Abdelmadjid Tebboune just 20 days before their arrests in 2020.
“The case of the team that worked for France 24 illustrates the difficulties of working as a journalist in Algeria and for foreign media outlets in particular,” said Khaled Drareni, RSF’s North Africa representative. “Algeria has for years been obstructing the work of the foreign media although it has nothing to gain by so doing.”
France 24’s problems with the Algeria authorities began in November 2019, nine months after the start of the “Hirak” anti-government street protests, when Kaci, the TV channel’s correspondent, was questioned by the police about his links with Rahmouni, the head of a company called MSCom which provided France 24 with production services and which had been raided and searched a few days before.
When Kaci was about to fly from Houari-Boumédiène international airport in Algiers three months later, he discovered that he was the subject of an international travel ban although the judicial authorities had not complied with the requirement to notify him.
The case suddenly took a more serious turn the following year when Kaci, Rahmouni and Youssef Hassani, who also worked MSCom, were detained on 28 July 2020 on the orders of an investigating judge in Bir Mourad Raïs pending trial on charges arising from their relationship with France 24. A fourth defendant, Nazim Hached, was placed under judicial control.
The arrests triggered an immediate outcry, with RSF issuing a press release demanding their immediate and unconditional release. Kaci, Rahmouni and Hassani were released provisionally the next day.
Today, France 24 no longer has accreditation in Algeria and no longer operates there. The last story it covered was the parliamentary elections in June 2021. The case exemplifies the fraught environment for foreign media in Algeria, where journalists report that the procedure whereby accreditation is issued and renewed is very slow and is dominated by political considerations.
The trial, which was initially supposed to start on 1 March and was postponed for a week, comes at a time when diplomatic relations between Algiers and Paris are particularly tense.