Algeria: Journalist sentenced to years in prison amid growing media crackdown

An Algerian court condemned journalist Abdelkrim Zeghileche to two years in prison over a Facebook post on August 24, but he was released from prison on 23 December to return directly to court for hearings in two other cases. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) deplored the ruling as a blatant attack against freedom of expression and expressed its grave concerns over the growing media crackdown in Algeria.

Portraits of Algerian detainees Credits: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

Updated: December 23, 2020

On 23 December, Abdelkrim Zeghileche, head of the independent web-based radio station ‘Radio Sarbacane’, was released from prison to be taken to court again for hearings in two other cases.

In one case, he is accused of insulting the president and opening ‘Radio Sarcabane’ without authorization. The prosecution seeks for confirmation of another six-month prison sentence and a fine of 50,000 dinars ($380).

In the other, a former official in Constantine, a city located in northeast Algeria, accused him of defamation. The prosecution points to a year in prison and a fine which hasn't been specified yet.

The verdicts of both cases are expected on 30 December.

In the latest trial against him, Zeghileche was charged with “endangering national unity” and “insulting the head of land.” He allegedly posted calls to create a new political party on Facebook.

Zeghileche has been in detention since June 24. On August 24, an Algerian court sentenced him to two years in prison and a fine of 100,000 dinars ($777). His lawyer Djamel Aissiouane said he would appeal the ruling.

Anti-government protests have swept Algeria since last year when demonstrators ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power. 

In recent months, Algerian courts have stepped up the prosecution and harassment of journalists, protestors, opposition politicians and social media users. Lawyer Aissiouane told AFP: “Now, whenever any of Algeria’s opposition speaks, they label them as ‘endangering national unity’ to jail them.”

Growing pressure over journalists and media

In early August, journalist Khaled Drareni was sentenced to three years in prison for reporting on the Hirak protest movement. The IFJ and other international journalists associations and human rights organizations strongly condemned his sentence.

In July, Ali Djamel Toubal, who had also reported on the anti-regime demonstrations, was sentenced to 15 months in prison on charges of “insulting official state institutions.”

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “We are deeply concerned over the deteriorating state of press freedom in Algeria. We demand the immediate release of Abdelkrim Zeghileche and all the journalists detained in Algeria.”

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

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