Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Algeria Harassing Journalists

20 May 2009

Four journalists face legal action for "defamation" in Algeria

SOURCE: Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Paris(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the increasing number of lawsuits against journalists for alleged "defamation".

On 11 May 2009, Nedjar El Hadj Daoud, editor of the "Al Waha" newspaper, was sentenced to six months in prison by the Ghardaïa court, confirming 2007 and 2008 rulings. The sentence stems from the publication of a 21 May 2006 article criticising the former director of the presidential cabinet, Larbi Belkheir, and the regional director of health. Daoud will appeal the court's decision. He has been named in over twenty other lawsuits and has been the victim of incessant judicial harassment. On 2 March, he was jailed after being sentenced to six months in prison for "defamation", in a case that dates back to 2005. He was released on 4 March for medical reasons.

"Al Waha" was created in 1990 and banned in 2006 following various pressures. It is the only newspaper in the south of the country.

In another case, Ahcène Guettaf, an "El Khabar" correspondent in Bouira, is also facing legal proceedings defamation. On 11 May, the Lakhdaria public prosecutor (Bouira province) called for a three-month prison sentence for Guettaf.

On 10 May, Omar Belhouchet, editor of "El Watan" newspaper, was again brought to court following a defamation complaint from Air Algeria. The state prosecutor of the Sidi M'hamed court demanded a fine of 50,000 Algerian dinars (approx. 510 euros), following two complaints filed in 2005 by Tayeb Benouis, the former CEO of Air Algeria. In a 28 February 2005 article in his paper, Belhouchet simply reproduced statements made by the secretary general of Air Algeria's union. Instead of taking the union representative to court, the company took action against the newspaper.

Belhouchet is awaiting the final verdict.

In yet another case, Nouri Benzenine, the former correspondent for "Echourouk El Youmi" in the west of the country, was sentenced to two months in prison and fined 50,000 dinars (approx. 510 euros) for"defamation" by the Maghnia tribunal (near the Moroccan border). The sentence stems from a March 2007 report on gasoline trafficking in the region. The provincial senator filed a complaint in 2007, despite not having been named in the article. Benzenine has stated that he was not made aware of the court proceedings.

For further information contact Soazig Dollet, RSF, 47, rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 78, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51


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