The International Federation of Journalists today condemned as “barbaric” two court verdicts that have sparked outrage among journalists and human rights campaigners in Algeria.
On Monday the publisher of the daily Le Matin, M. Mohammed Benchicou, was sentenced to two years in prison and two weeks ago the journalist and human rights campaigner Hafnaoui Ghoul was also jailed.
“These actions are clear evidence of threats to free expression,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “They amount to a barbaric assault on press freedom. There is a shameful lack of respect for journalists’ rights on the part of the political and judicial authorities. These sentences are grossly disproportionate and completely unacceptable.”
M. Benchicou was condemned to two years of jail for “detention of state bonds” in dinars, since the border police found them in August 2003 at the Algiers airport. According to the Ministry of finance, he breached the law on currency control and circulation of capital. M. Benchicou made an appeal against this decision on Tuesday 5 June. Another journalists, M. Ghoul, was condemned to two months of jail on 9 June for « defamation and outrage » after an interview he gave to the daily Le Soir d’Algérie about the situation of human rights in the region of Djelfa (south of Algiers).
The IFJ supports the Syndicat National des Journalistes d’Algérie in the defence of fundamental rights, and in particular of freedom of the press. “Algerian journalists have paid a high cost for press freedom between 1993 and 1997. These dark years are hopefully over, so we now expect the authorities to guarantee real independence for the profession. Journalists cannot be free as long as heavy and unjustified verdicts remind them that they are still submitted to the ruling regime”, said Aidan White.