IFJ Condemns Political Manipulation as Court Confirms Jail Term for Media Chief In Algiers

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the « hand of political influence » in the sentencing of Mohammed Benchicou, the Editor of the daily newspaper Le Matin, to two years jail in Algeria.

« This case has the hallmarks of political manipulation – an independent media voice, a court case without credibility and now a jail sentence that is disproportionate and punitive, » said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. « This is victimisation that casts a long shadow over the system of justice and democracy in Algeria. »

The IFJ said that the confirmation of the jail term for Benchicou, who had been accused of currency offences after his arrest at Algiers airport a year ago, was a spiteful act – made clear by the decision to increase the fine imposed on him at an earlier court hearing.

« The confirmation of Benchicou’s jail sentence is quite alarming for it clearly shows the will displayed by the Algerian Authorities to silence the independent voices of Algeria”, added the General Secretary. “In such a context of deliberate targeting, we are planning to send an official letter to the Algerian President over the Benchicou Affair as well as the other journalists detained or still awaiting trial”

Following the iniquitous decision of the Algerian court in this affair, The IFJ condemnation comes after a series of calls asking for the release of many Algerian Journalists that are still behind bars.

Hafnaoui Ghoul, another Journalist and Human Rights activist, charged with defamation after an interview published in the Algerian daily Le Soir, is currently serving a three-month jail sentence.

In a press release published last Wednesday, editors of the Daily Le Matin have pointed at “the totalitarian drift taken by the government that seems to target deliberately the freedom of press”. The daily has also directed severe criticism towards the Algerian authorities and the Court’s decision that it sees as being “politically-motivated, groundless and above all lacks substance in terms of the evidence that would legitimate such a judgment”.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries