The International Federation of
Journalists (IFJ) today expressed its concerns about attempts by Algerian courts
to muzzle journalists following a court decision to fine Abdelouahab Souag,
a journalist for the daily El Watan, 50000 DA (Eur 500) for publishing articles on a Muslim cleric.
"We condemn this practice of gagging the
press under the cloak of justice," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "Journalists
have the right to inform the public without fear or favour from those in
According to press reports, Souag was
fined 20000 DA (Eur 200) by a court in Mascara which also ordered him to pay
30000 DA (Eur 300) compensation to an Imam at Aïn Kahla Mosque who
had brought a defamation case against him over two articles published in El Watan.
The first article, which appeared in
2006, concerned the alleged ban by the Imam of a religious ceremony in the town
Mamounia, following a fatwa describing the ceremony as illegal and heretical in
Islam. The 2008 article accused the cleric of attacking journalists whom he had
allegedly accused of lacking patriotism.
2008, the IFJ criticised the three month jail sentence handed to El Watan's director,
Omar Belhouchet and reporter Salima Tlemçani, for exposing the activities of alleged healers
who worked in Algiers
without medical qualifications.
Souag has appealed against the verdict and
the IFJ supports him.
"Justice requires that this decision be
struck down, "added White. " We are confident that the higher court will uphold
the right of journalists in Algeria."
For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists
in 123 countries worldwide