“This decision lifts the heart and mind because of its arbitrary, absurd and violent nature,” RSF general secretary Christophe Deloire tweeted, denouncing “orderly justice” and “judicial persecution.”
“Attack on national unity”
Jailed since March 29 in the Kolea prison near Algiers, Khaled Drareni was charged with “inciting an unarmed assembly” and “attacking national unity” after covering a March 7 demonstration in Algiers. of the “Hirak”, the popular uprising that shook Algeria for more than a year until its suspension a few months ago due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The demands were unfounded. This is the job of a journalist, ”said Mr. Benissad, who is also the president of the Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH).
Under the same charges, Khaled Drareni’s two co-defendants, Samir Benlarbi and Slimane Hamitouche, two “Hirak” figures, were each sentenced to two years in prison, including four months in prison. Having already served the length of their sentence in detention, they will not return to prison.
Exercise “the right to inform”
During his videoconference trial, during which he appeared haggard, Khaled Drareni, 40, rejected the charges against him.
He assured that he had only done his “job as a freelance journalist” and had exercised “his right to report.”
During the hearing, he was accused of having criticized the political system on Facebook and of having published a statement from a coalition of political parties in favor of a general strike, according to RSF.
“The reality of the repression in Algeria”
Calls to release the journalist have multiplied in recent weeks. “The Algerian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Khaled Drareni, especially since there is no evidence that he has done anything other than his profession as a journalist,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement. (CPJ), NGO based in the United States.
“If Khaled Drareni is not released and released in the coming weeks, we will endeavor to inform public opinion of the reality of the repression in Algeria and mobilize international organizations and governments,” RSF warned earlier. verdict.
“We fear for freedom of expression with this type of verdict. Khaled Drareni has not committed the least crime, ”Me Mustapha Bouchachi, a lawyer and human rights activist, told AFP.
“Surrender or imprisonment”
The Algerian justice has increased in recent months the prosecution and conviction of activists, political opponents, journalists and bloggers of “Hirak”. Some journalists have been accused by the regime of sowing discord, of violating the national interest and above all of being in the pay of “foreign parties.” Several are in prison and trials are underway.
For Neila Latrous, a former correspondent for French television channels in Algeria, current editor-in-chief of the weekly Jeune Afrique for the Arab world, Khaled Drareni’s conviction is “a message sent to the entire profession: surrender or imprisonment”.
Algeria is ranked 146 (out of 180) in RSF’s 2020 world press freedom ranking. It lost five places compared to 2019 (141st) and 27th compared to 2015 (119th).
See also in The HuffPost: The official announcement of the death of the head of the Algerian army, Ahmed Gaid Salah