It’s the big day for Khaled Drareni. Sentenced in the first instance to three years in prison, a verdict that shocked the international community, the Algerian journalist must know the verdict in his appeal on Tuesday morning.
He has become a symbol of the struggle for freedom of the press. Imprisoned since March 29, Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni will know on Tuesday, September 15 whether he will leave prison or not. The verdict in his appeal procedure is expected later this morning in the court in Algiers.
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 French TV channel TV5 Mondeet 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 corruption and money for the political system on Facebook and of publishing a statement by a coalition of political parties for a general strike, according to the RSF. Minister of Communications Ammar Belhimer, government spokesman, also accuses him of working without a professional press card.
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.
Under the same charges, the latter two were released on July 2, while Khaled Drareni was jailed. The prosecutor also demanded four years in prison against them.
“I just did my job”
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. “Khaled Drareni is backed by a comprehensive solidarity campaign, from Algiers to New York via Paris and Geneva: Committees supporting the journalist in Algeria and abroad have called for his” immediate and “unconditional” release due to his “particularly worrying” state of health, according to RSF .
Algeria is in 146th place (out of 180) in the World Press Freedom 2020 event set by the RSF and loses five places compared to 2019 (141st) and 27th compared to 2015 (119th).