IFJ Condemns Algerian Court Over "Press Gag"

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