Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni received a three-year prison term Monday, a lawyer said, in a trial rights groups have called a test of press freedom in a country recently rocked by anti-government protests.
“Its a very heavy verdict for Khaled Drareni. We are surprised,” lawyer and president of the Algerian League for Human Rights Nouredine Benissad told AFP.
Drareni, 40, editor of the Casbah Tribune news site and correspondent for French-language channel TV5 Monde, was arrested on March 29 on charges of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “endangering national unity” after covering demonstrations by the “Hirak” protest movement.
Two co-accused in the trial, protest members Samir Benlarbi and Slimane Hamitouche, were sentenced to two years jail each, said Benissad.
Weekly protests rocked Algeria for more than a year and only came to a halt in March due to the novel coronavirus crisis.
The prosecutor had called for Drareni to be sentenced to four years in prison, fined 100,000 dinars ($784) and stripped of his civil rights at the opening of his trial at the Sidi Mhamed court in Algiers on August 3.
Drareni denied the charges when he appeared via video-conference due to coronavirus measures.
“I just did my job as an independent journalist,” he said, according to a statement by press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), for which Drareni also works.
He argued he had exercised his “right to inform as a journalist and citizen”.
Shift to authoritarianism
RSF, part of an international support committee for Drareni, earlier condemned the charges and said “a prison sentence would be proof of a shift to authoritarianism” in the North African country.
If judges were to “accept this absurd indictment, it would show that Algerias judiciary and executive have turned their back on the ideals of the countrys independence,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
The US-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists had demanded Algeria “immediately and unconditionally release journalist KRead More – Source