Algerian journalist must serve two years in prison, appeal court says

ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns the flagrant attack on press freedom in Algeria after journalist Khaled Drareni was today sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by the Algiers Court of Appeal. Drareni was arrested in March 2020 after filming an anti-government protest, and was previously sentenced to three years imprisonment. We call for the immediate release of Drareni, and the quashing of his conviction, which represents a violation not only of human rights standards, but also of the Algerian Constitution.

ARTICLE 19 MENA Regional Director Saloua Ghazouani said,

“Drareni’s only ‘crime’ was to carry out his work as a journalist. Journalists play a vital role in informing the public, particularly in times of protest, and the Algerian government’s efforts to crack down not just on protestors but the journalists reporting on them represents a worrying reversal of its commitment to reform.”

Drareni, who is the Editor of the CasbahTribune, as well as working for French outlet TV5Monde, has been detained since 29 March 2020. He was arrested for reporting on a protest that was part of the Hirak movement, which is calling for democratic reform in Algeria. On 10 August 2020, he was sentenced to three years in prison for “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “endangering national unity.” During his arrest, Drareni was asked to provide the password to his mobile phone, threatening the right to protection of sources. Drareni was tried alongside two activists Slimane Hamitouche and Samir Belarbi, facing similar charges for their involvement with the Hirak movement, but they were released.

Ghazouani added,

“The imprisonment of journalists, activists and protestors simply for exercising their right to free expression in Algeria must end. It’s time the government takes steps towards genuine change, instead of criminalizing its critics.”