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Attacks on the Press in 2006 - Snapshots: Algeria

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 2007
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2006 - Snapshots: Algeria, February 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c5676530.html [accessed 25 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Authorities arrested Kamel Bousaad, editor of the pro-Islamist weekly Errissala, on February 8 and Berkane Bouderbala, managing editor of the weekly Essafir, on February 11, after their newspapers published controversial Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The editors faced charges under Article 144 of the penal code for insulting the Prophet and denigrating Islam, which carries a five-year prison sentence. The case was closed and they were released after four weeks in prison, but the publications were suspended, according to CPJ sources.

On February 11, cartoonist Ali Dilem was sentenced to one year in prison and fined 50,000 dinars (US$730) on defamation charges stemming from a series of cartoons depicting President Abdelaziz Bouteflika that appeared in the French-language daily Liberté in 2003. An appeals court later found him not guilty of the charges. On February 2, the director of Canal Algérie, Lotfi Shriat, and the director of Thalita TV, Houriya Khateer, showed two of the cartoons during news broadcasts. They were later dismissed by state-owned Télévision Algérienne, which runs both channels, local sources told CPJ.

The government approved a decree in February that effectively barred the media and families of victims from investigating crimes and human rights abuses that took place during the Algerian civil conflict of the 1990s. The blanket ban prevents investigation of the murders of at least 58 journalists by armed groups or unknown assailants between 1993 and 1996, and the disappearance of at least two reporters, Djameleddine Fahassi and Aziz Bouabdellah, widely believed to have been seized by members of the Algerian security forces. "The provisions of this decree are so sweeping that they amount to censorship and an attempt to control the writing of history," CPJ said in a letter to Bouteflika on March 22.

Mohamed Benchicou, former publisher of the French-language daily Le Matin, was released June 14 from El-Harrache Prison outside Algiers after serving a two-year sentence for allegedly violating the country's currency laws in 2003. Journalists and human rights groups viewed his conviction as retaliation for Le Matin's critical editorial line against the government. He was prosecuted shortly after Le Matin alleged that Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni had tortured detainees while a military security commander in the 1970s. Several criminal defamation lawsuits remained pending against Benchicou. Le Matin was forced to close in 2004 when the state printer demanded the newspaper settle its outstanding debts immediately.

On July 5, Algeria's Independence Day, Bouteflika pardoned all journalists convicted of defaming or insulting the president, public officials, and state institutions. The president had marked World Press Freedom Day on May 3 by offering amnesty to jailed journalists, but it applied only to journalists whose appeals had failed, Agence France-Presse reported.

An Algiers court convicted Ali Fodil, executive editor of the Arabic-language newspaper Ech-Chourouk, and reporter Naila Berrahal on October 31 on charges of defaming Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, according to the newspaper. The defense planned an appeal, The Associated Press reported. The Libyan embassy in Algiers sued the newspaper after it published two articles in August suggesting the Libyan leader had a role in negotiations with Touareg leaders to create a new state in the Sahel region. The articles reported the hostile reaction of the Touareg in southern Algeria to the plan.

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