Drareni, who is also TV5 Monde’s Algeria correspondent and runs the Casbah Tribune news website, was finally released from Koléa prison, 35 km west of Algiers, on 19 February, after being jailed for 11 months.
Like dozens of other prisoners of conscience, he was released under a pardon announced by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on the evening of 18 February, three days before the second anniversary of the start of the so-called “Hirak” wave of anti-government protests.
“We are extremely happy, despite the bitter aftertaste of 11 months of injustice,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Journalistic independence and pluralism are the sine qua non for positive transformation in Algeria. The pardons granted by President Tebboune are undeniably a move in the right direction after some backward steps. Khaled Drareni will be able to resume working for reliable and independent journalism.”
Deloire and the entire RSF team are extremely grateful to all those who actively backed the RSF campaign for Drareni’s release, especially the support committee, ever since his arrest on 29 March 2020.
“The victim of unprecedented persecution, Khaled resisted with his usual courage, inspiring the fight for press freedom in the region,” said Souhaieb Khayati, the head of RSF’s bureau in Tunis. “The pardons granted by President Tebboune had to recognize what was obvious, namely, that Khaled Drareni is an honest journalist whose work does not threaten national unity. On the contrary, a peaceful debate is the best way to ensure Algeria’s unity and credibility.”
The judicial persecution to which Drareni was subjected for nearly a year turned him into a symbol of press freedom in Algeria. He was arrested for the first time on 7 March 2020, when he was held for three days and then released under judicial control. The judicial control was withdrawn on 27 March, but he was arrested again two days later, while covering one of the Hirak street protests. He was sentenced on appeal to two years in prison on charges of inciting an unauthorized demonstration and endangering state security. The supreme court had been due to hear his appeal on 25 February.
Algeria is ranked 146th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index, five places lower than in 2019 and 27 places lower than in 2015.