Three-year jail term sought for story about Tuareg protest in southern Algeria

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for the withdrawal of all charges against , Rabah Karèche, the newspaper Liberté’s correspondent in Tamanrasset, a city 2,000 km south of Algiers, after a prosecutor today (5th August) sought a three-year jail sentence for his coverage of a demonstration.

Karèche been detained for the past 109 days for covering a local Tuareg protest against a decree changing provincial boundaries in the Saharan region known as Ahaggar that adjoins Tamanrasset. 

The prosecutor requested a total of three years in prison for Karèche on charges of “creating an electronic account dedicated to spreading information likely to cause segregation and hatred in society,” “deliberately spreading false information likely to endanger public order,” and “using various means to undermine national security and unity.”

The Tamanrasset court is expected to issue its verdict on 12 August.

“We deplore this abuse of the justice system and call on the Algerian authorities to drop all charges against this journalist, who was just doing his job,” said Souhaieb Khayati, the head of RSF’s North Africa desk. “The sentence requested by the prosecution is totally unjustified while Rabah Karèche’s provisional detention has dragged on for too long.”

Karèche was charged on 19 April and was placed in pre-trial detention the same day after he covered a protest by members of the local Tuareg population against the imposition of new territorial divisions in the Tuareg part of the Ahaggar region. 

Oppressive legislation

His coverage is seen as having violated a taboo by reporting objections expressed by the region’s Tuareg tribes to decisions taken by the Algerian state – in this case the transfer of Tuareg lands containing rich mineral and gas deposits to the neighbouring wilayas (provinces) of Djanet and Illizi.

Karèche’s imprisonment has yet again shown that freedom of the press does not exist in Algeria and that article 54 of the constitution is nothing more than a mirage. Journalists can easily be jailed for a tweet or a newspaper article under Algeria’s draconian legislation in 2021 and the application made of it. 

Algeria is ranked 146th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 05.08.2021