LONDON: The head of an Algerian radio station and news website was on Tuesday given a six-month prison sentence on charges related to the contents of an editorial piece.
Ihsane El-Kadi, director of Radio M and Maghreb Emergent, was accused of “disseminating false information liable to endanger national unity,” “disrupting elections,” and “reopening the issue of the national tragedy,” a reference to the country’s devastating 1990s civil war.
He was also handed a fine of 50,000 Algerian dinars ($345).
Khaled Drareni, North Africa representative for the Reporters Without Borders organization, said: “This verdict is evidence of the judicial harassment that Ihsane El-Kadi has endured for years, and contradicts what the Algerian authorities claim about respecting freedom of the press and freedom of opinion in their country.”
The charges were brought by Algeria’s former communication minister, Amar Belhimer, in response to an editorial on a Radio M blog in which El-Kadi suggested the pro-democracy Hirak movement should have a broader base.
Confirming his sentence in a tweet, El-Kadi said: “Sentenced to six months in prison without a warrant for an analytical article on a complaint by the Minister of Communication Amar Belhimer on charges for which he does not have the status of complainant.”
Condamné à 6 mois de prison ferme sans mandat de dépôt pour un article d'analyse sur plainte du ministre de la communication Amar Belhimer sur des chefs d'accusation pour lesquels il n a pas qualité de plaignant.Sentiment de colère et de tristesse. Contraint d'aller en appel. pic.twitter.com/2W4GdmljCe
— El kadi Ihsane (@ElkadiIhsane) June 7, 2022
“Feeling of anger and sadness. Forced to appeal,” he added.
According to the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, Algeria ranked 134 out of 180 countries in terms of freedom of the press. The media landscape in the country has deteriorated over recent years, with independent media under pressure, journalists regularly imprisoned or prosecuted, and many online sites blocked.
Under Algeria’s Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation it is an offence punishable by up to five years in prison to discuss the country’s “black decade,” the conflict between the army and armed Islamist groups that devastated Algeria between 1992 and 2002.
It is not the first time that El-Kadi has been arrested in Algeria. In June last year, prior to the Algerian elections, he, and prominent journalist Drareni, were held over charges of “defamation and insult” and their Hirak connections.