Reporters Without Borders condemns the six-month jail sentence that a court in Tébessa (460 km east of Algiers) passed yesterday on Rabah Lamouchi, the local correspondent of the national Arabic-language daily Ennahar, on charges of lacking press accreditation and defamation. Lamouchi has been held since his arrest on 9 June.
“These are trumped-up charges,” Reporters Without Borders said. “In the absence of a national press card, it is the news media, not the Algerian authorities, who issue press accreditation to their own employees. In this case, the authorities are clearly trying to suppress information that Lamouchi has been reporting in his articles.”
Ennahar editor Anis Rahmani told Reporters Without Borders: “This is a case of an abuse by local judicial authorities that undermines press freedom in Algeria. If Lamouchi had not had our newspaper’s accreditation, we would have had to sue him for impersonation.”
Rahmani added: “This is the first time that a journalist has been detained before his trial, before a court decided whether or not he was guilty. There is no doubt that the Tébessa district security chief was behind this sentence.”
10 June 2009 - National daily’s correspondent detained in eastern city
Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by yesterday’s arrest of Rabah Lamouchi, the national Arabic-language daily Ennahar’s correspondent in Tebessa (460 km east of Algiers), on the grounds that he was not officially accredited by the newspaper. This is denied by its editor, who told Reporters Without Borders it was just pretext. Another Ennahar correspondent was held for three days last month.
“This case is disturbing because an Algerian judge is attacking a national daily regarded as pro-government,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The allegation that its correspondent lacks accreditation is just an excuse for intimidating the staff and silencing reporters who write about the corrupt practices of local officials. We call for his release.”
After being arrested at his home yesterday morning by members of the national gendarmerie, Lamouchi was interrogated by the head of the Tebessa criminal investigation department. A judicial detention order was finally issued yesterday evening.
“We were all surprised by this,” Ennahar editor Anis Rahmani told Reporters Without Borders. “It is a dangerous way to proceed, and threatens the healthy climate prevailing in the national press. Whenever our correspondents report allegations of fraud or local criminal practices, the courts intervene and try to silence journalists who are just doing their work. This case is a ploy, a sham.”
Jamel Bourdiz, Ennahar’s correspondent in Skikda (300 km east of Algiers), was also the target of intimidation by local police and judicial authorities at the end of last month. He was arrested on 26 May and spent three days in custody while the police supposedly investigated an alleged case of embezzlement.