Global NGO, Amnesty International have called for the immediate release of Algerian journalists on September 20, noting that the government should end its “relentless” attack on freedom of expression.
In late August of this year, Canadian-born Algerian researcher, Raouf Farrah and Algerian journalist, Mustapha Bendjama were sentenced to two years in prison as well as being fined 200,000 Algerian Dinars (1,450 US Dollars).
Farrah and Bendjama are not the only journalists who have faced the full force of the law in Algeria, they are amongst the dozens of activists and journalists who are currently in jail for exercising their right to freedom of speech.
In the past year alone, five journalists have been prosecuted, and Radio M, one of Algeria’s few independent media outfits, had their offices raided by authorities. The officials seized cameras, computers and other equipment. The editor, Ihsane El-Kadi, was also detained.
Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Director for the MENA region, was alarmed at Algeria’s increase in the crackdown of dissenting voices.
Morayef stated, “In Algeria today, no one speaking out bravely and critically is safe from the authorities’ repressive clutches, anyone deemed to be a threat from students to the elderly – have found themselves facing harassment, intimidation or arbitrary arrest simply for exercising their human rights.”.
Neighbouring Morocco and Tunisia have also been castigated by rights groups for their stifling of views critical of the government and the monarchy,
In Morocco, multiple internet users have had faced legal scrutiny for criticism of public servants, Islam and the Moroccan King.
A Casablanca court sentenced a Facebook user to five years behind bars for criticism of King Mohammed VI’s stance on Israel on his account.
Over the past two years, The Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) said that it has recorded a sizeable number of cases of legal proceedings.
The AMDH noted that many were facing charges on the basis of political views and articles in media outlets.
Similarly, Tunisia stated that it intends to prosecute those who criticise the President and the government on social media platforms.
With regards to President Tebboune’s government cracking down on speech, Mr. Morayef said, “The government’s crackdown must end immediately and all those who were arrested solely for peacefully expressing their opinion or criticising the government, including journalists and media workers who have been convicted of vague and over broad offences such as ‘spreading fake news’ or ‘offending public officials’, must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Algeria’s dismal human rights record has attracted global scrutiny amid a visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association to the North African country.
Algeria is currently ranked 136th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, carried out by international press freedom advocates, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Their pitiful ranking is down by two places from 2022’s index.