Tahar Djehiche, a cartoonist who was acquitted last May on charges of insulting the president and “inciting a mob,” has just been convicted on appeal by a court in Lemghir, in the eastern province of El-Oued, which has sentenced him to six months in prison and a fine of 500,000 dinars.
Djehiche appealed yesterday to Algeria’s supreme court. Reporters Without Borders calls on the court to overturn his conviction, which has dealt yet another serious blow to media freedom in Algeria. He was prosecuted over cartoons posted on social networks showing President Bouteflika inside an hourglass collapsing under the sands of In Salah, a southern town in the Sahara desert where residents have been protesting against shale gas exploration and production. “This decision is incomprehensible,” said Yasmine Kacha, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Maghreb desk. “Algeria’s highest court must show leniency towards Djehiche, whose cartoons just emphasized the environment challenges linked to shale gas production.” The increasingly tense climate for the Algerian media since President Bouteflika’s reelection in 2014 and the government’s many attempts to intimidate media outlets were already condemned in a Reporters Without Borders press release last March. Algeria is ranked 119th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.