IFJ Condemns “Institutional Inquisition” in Algeria as Journalists Face New Prison Sentences

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned a new series of “regular” prison sentences handed down by the Algiers Tribunal every Tuesday against journalists.

On 24 May, Ali Dilem, the cartoonist of the daily Liberté was charged with a fine of fifty thousand dinars (approximately 550 euros) “with an offence against the President of the Republic”. Mustapha Hammouche, another columnist working for Liberté who is also being pursued for the same “offence”, has been acquitted. The former managing editor of Liberté, Farid Alilet, was falsely sentenced to one year in prison and the newspaper was fined 250 thousand dinars (approximately 2850 euros).

“These Tuesday proceedings organised on a weekly basis are a parody of justice aimed at crushing editorial independence,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “They demonstrate the emergence of an institutional inquisition which seeks to impose self-censorship on Algerian journalists”.

Ali Dilem and Mustapha Hammouche were targeted for the publication of eight sketches and one chronicle in 2003. Farid Alilet was charged on the basis of two publications he issued since he became managing editor. On 10 May, during the first round of proceedings the state attorney delivered a one-year sentence against all three journalists accused of offending the Head of State.

The State Prosecutor in Algiers went after the journalists in question without any formal grounds for complaint from neither the President nor the President’s office.

The IFJ is calling for the abolishment of amendments to the penal code on defamation which hang over the media since June 2001 and which recommend imprisonment and fines for defamation.

“We are renewing our call on the international community and all media organisations to appeal to the Algerian authorities to end these grave violations of freedom of expression,” said White.

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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries