journalist Khaled Drareni was sentenced to two years in prison on appeal

Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni remains in prison. The Algiers court sentenced him on appeal on Tuesday to two years in prison for “encouraging an unarmed assembly” and “undermining national unity”.

Imprisoned since March 29, Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni, who has become a symbol of the struggle for press freedom, was sentenced on appeal on Tuesday, September 15, to two years in prison by the Algiers court and remains in custody. prison.

“Two years in prison for Drareni. We will appeal to the Supreme Court,” Me Bouchachi told AFP.

“His continued detention is proof of the regime’s inclusion in a logic of absurd, unfair and violent repression,” also responded Christophe Deloire, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), of which Khaled Drareni is a correspondent. in Algeria.

Khaled Drareni was sentenced on August 10 to three years in prison for “encouraging unarmed assembly” and “undermining national unity”. The verdict, of unparalleled severity, surprised and upset his colleagues.

During the appeal process a week ago, the prosecutor requested – as in the first instance – four years in prison against the founder of the online news site Casbah Tribune, who is also a correspondent in Algeria for the channel. French TV station TV5 Monde and for NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The 40-year-old journalist was arrested after covering a student demonstration in Algiers on March 7. He is also accused of criticizing on Facebook “corruption and money” for the political system and for publishing a statement from a coalition of political parties for a general strike, according to the RSF.

>> To read: Khaled Drareni’s appeal procedure, strong mobilization of the international press

Minister of Communications Ammar Belhimer, government spokesman, also accuses him of working without a professional press card.

“I’m a journalist and not a criminal. I was just doing my job.”

Khaled Drareni was tried along with Samir Benlarbi and Slimane Hamitouche, two figures of “Hirak”, the popular uprising that shook Algeria for more than a year until its end in mid-March due to a health crisis.

On the same charges, the latter two were granted temporary release on July 2, while Khaled Drareni was held in jail. The prosecutor also demanded four years in prison against them.

During the appeal proceedings, during which he appeared exhausted, the journalist categorically rejected the allegations against him. “I’m a journalist and not a criminal. I was just doing my job,” he pleaded.

In a statement on Monday, the RSF condemned “the pressure and attempts at corruption” that this experienced journalist was the target of.

Increased repression against “Hirak” militants

Khaled Drareni’s trial is taking place against the backdrop of growing repression of “Hirak” activists, political opponents, journalists and bloggers.

Some journalists have been accused by the regime of sowing discord, threatening national interests and, in particular, of paying “foreign parties”. Several are in prison and trials are ongoing.

Algeria is in 146th place (out of 180) in the 2020 press freedom ranking established by RSF. It has lost five places compared to 2019 (141st) and 27 compared to 2015 (119th).

“It is important to continue the mobilization, including pressure from the media towards the judicial authorities, but also the political authorities so that they understand that we will not give up,” Hakim Addad told AFP on Monday. activist for “Hirak”.

According to the National Committee for the Liberation of Detinees (CNLD), about 45 people are currently behind bars for facts related to the protest.

With AFP