February 16, 2006 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Cartoonist Ali Dilem given one-year jail sentence

Reporters Without Borders today strongly condemned a one-year prison sentence and 50,000 dinar (€550) fine given to cartoonist Ali Dilem for drawing a dozen cartoons of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika that appeared in the daily paper Liberté in October and November 2003. The Algiers appeals court handed down the sentence on 11 February. “We deplore the judicial harassment of Dilem and other Algerian journalists,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “Dilem has now been sentenced to a total of more than nine years in prison. President Bouteflika is very thin-skinned and the country's courts are clogged with media cases.” “We will watch all these prosecutions very carefully. As long as amendments to the criminal code concerning defamation are allowed to stand, Algeria will continue to be able to imprison its journalists. Two of them - Mohammed Benchicou and Bahir El Arabi - are currently paying the price of this repressive policy.” A lower Algiers court had already fined Dilem 50,000 dinars and the appeals court added the prison sentence under article 144b of the criminal code, which allows between two months and a year's jail as well as a fine for “insulting” or defaming the president. Dilem's lawyer, Khaled Bourayou, told Reporters Without Borders he regretted that working as a journalist involved such a strong risk of imprisonment and that simply being one was enough to be convicted. “Cartoons have to be seen very tolerantly and calmly, and Dilem's should not be seen in the violent way the Danish ones were,” he said. The appeals court also heard yesterday another case concerning a cartoon Dilem drew about a terrorist massacre of 21 Algerian soldiers. A lower court had given him a four-month suspended prison sentence on 23 December 2003. The result of the appeal is expected next week. Dilem has 24 cases of press offences pending against him. Kamel Bousaâd and Berkane Bouderbala, editors respectively of the Arab-language weeklies Errisala and Essafir, were arrested earlier this month for reprinting the Mohammed cartoons that first appeared in the Danish daily Jyllands Posten. Both papers were suspended and the editors face a prison sentence.