- Media freedom organisations are strongly concerned over the increasingly politicised sentencing of journalists and editors in Algeria. An Algiers court recently confirmed a two years jail sentence for an editor, while other cases against outspoken Algerian journalists are still ongoing. Many are already behind bars.
The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today joined a long list of media freedom groups, condemning the harshening environment in Algeria. An IFJ release spoke of the "hand of political influence" in the sentencing of Mohammed Benchicou, the editor of the renowned Algiers daily newspaper 'Le Matin', to two years jail.
According to IFJ General Secretary Aidan White, "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. 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 Mr 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 Mr White. "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 with no parole and has been sentenced to pay over 1 million dinars (euro 11,500) in damages. Mr Ghoul in an article had denounced mismanagement and rampant corruption by Djelfa provincial authorities.
In a press release published last Wednesday, editors of the daily 'Le Matin' pointed to "the totalitarian drift taken by the government that seems to target deliberately freedom of the press." 'Le Matin' has been a principal target of the media repression campaign initiated by the government of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika after he was re-elected earlier this year.
The Algiers daily has recently directed severe criticism towards 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."
Also the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) yesterday stated its outrage over the Ghoul case, calling it a "judicial saga". Agnès Devictor of the French group expressed her strong condemnation of these continued attacks on Algerian independent media and journalists.
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