Algeria: Release journalist Khaled Drareni and end targeted harassment of independent media

The Algerian authorities must end the unlawful prosecution of journalist Khaled Drareni who is founder of the CasbahTribune news site, a correspondent for the French TV channel TV5Monde and a representative of Reporters without Borders (RSF) in Algeria, said Amnesty international ahead of World Press Freedom Day.

The call comes as part of a wider campaign to be launched by the organization on Sunday 3rd May asking supporters and journalists across the world to show solidarity and call on the authorities to end the unjustified restrictions imposed on journalists and independent media in Algeria.

Journalism should never be a punishable crime
Heba Morayef

“The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Khaled and end the outrageous prosecution of him. He is being punished simply for daring to do his journalistic work independently and bravely. Journalism should never be a punishable crime,” said Heba Morayef

“At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, World Press Freedom Day should stand as a stark reminder to the authorities that journalism, freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly must be respected at all times.”

Security forces arrested Drareni on 7 March while covering a protest of the Hirak movement which has called for radical political change in Algeria since February 2019.  Drareni was released a few days later, on 10 March and placed under judicial supervision but the police arrested him again on 27 March.

The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Khaled and end the outrageous prosecution of him. He is being punished simply for daring to do his journalistic work independently and bravely
Heba Morayef

Prosecutors charged him with "incitement to unarmed gathering" and "harming the integrity of the national territory" which could lead to ten years in prison simply for his reporting as a journalist covering Hirak protests. Drareni has done significant reporting on the Hirak protests and has exposed the government's crackdown on freedom of speech and assembly in Algeria through his videos and photos posted online. He has been vocal in his criticism of the authorities' way of dealing with the movement calling it cosmetic. Khaled Drareni is currently detained in Kolea prison in Tipaza.

On 15 April, Minister of Communication Ammar Belhimer, admitted that the authorities, without prior notification, blocked two online independent media, Maghreb Emergent and RadioMPost, pending to "further legal proceedings" against its director for "defamation and insult" against president Abdelmadjid Tebboune.   

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, World Press Freedom Day should stand as a stark reminder to the authorities that journalism, freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly must be respected at all times
Heba Morayef

Amnesty International has recently called the authorities to halt the prosecutions of Hirak activists, protesters and journalists detained solely for expressing their views online and offline and/or calling for a democratic change. The organization warned that by arresting and imprisoning the activists, the authorities were also endangering their health given the risks of a COVID 19 outbreak in prisons and places of detention.

Background

Interlignes news website is claiming that its website was also subjected to censorship since it was inaccessible from Algerian IP addresses since April 19th. They are denying the Minister of Communication claim that the administrators are behind the unavailability of the website in Algeria while still being available to foreign IP addresses.