Reporters Without Borders

Newspaper reporter sentenced in absentia to a year in prison for libel

Published on Wednesday 18 February 2009.
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Reporters Without Borders is disturbed by the one-year prison sentence which Layadi El-Amine Yahia, a correspondent of the daily Le Carrefour d’Algérie, received on appeal from a court in the western city of Mascara on 11 February for allegedly libelling the city’s director of commerce. Yahia, who did not attend the hearing, was acquitted in the original trial.

“Algeria’s journalists have for several years been exposed to a permanent threat of imprisonment,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The authorities keeping on suing the news media, creating a climate of intimidation and self-censorship. They have failed to understand that, in cases of defamation, imprisonment is an utterly inadequate response.”

Mascara’s director of commerce sued Yahia over an article implicating him in corruption. Initially acquitted by a Mascara court, Yahia was sentenced in absentia on 11 February to a year in prison and a fine of 20,000 dinars (220 euros).

As Yahia was not notified that an appeal court was to hear the case, he plans to appeal against his conviction, Le Carrefour d’Algérie editor Abdellah Bouhali told Reporters Without Borders. No date has so far been set for the hearing of Yahia’s appeal.

Reporters Without Borders has meanwhile learned that a journalist with the privately-owned daily El Watan in Mascara is being sued by the imam of El Hassanaïne mosque in Mamounia, a town 2 km outside Mascara, over articles published on 12 April 2006 and 19 April 2008. On 15 February, the trial was adjourned until 22 February at the prosecution’s request.

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