Another Algerian journalist given jail term: rights groups

Saturday's trial and ruling against Adel Sayed is the latest in a series of harsh sentences targeting journalists in the North African country, despite international condemnation.

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ALGIERS - An Algerian court has sentenced a journalist to two years in jail and suspended him from his state radio station job because of online posts, rights groups said on Sunday.

Saturday's trial and ruling against Adel Sayed is the latest in a series of harsh sentences targeting journalists in the North African country, despite international condemnation.

Sayed was not present for the verdict, and the court in the northwestern city of Tabessa also issued an arrest warrant for him, the CNLD prisoners' support committee said.

"The journalist Adel Sayed was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail without parole... and took him off work at the radio station in Tabessa where he worked for 26 years," CNLD said on Facebook.

Sayed reacted quickly with an ironic post on Facebook in which he said he would surrender to the authorities and was "honoured to be imprisoned".

He also "thanked" President Abdelmadjid Tebboune for making his sentence possible.

"I had never imagined such glory in the new Algeria: two years in prison, an arrest warrant and a sacking after working at the radio station for 26 years," Sayed wrote.

Said Salhi, deputy head of the LADDH rights group, told AFP the sentence was passed under the terms of Article 96 of Algeria's penal code which condemns those who publish comments "that can undermine the national interest".

"Here is yet another journalist in a long list of journalists imprisoned, put on trial or sentenced for their opinions as part of an ongoing campaign of repression," Salhi said.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Algeria 146 out of 180 countries and territories in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index, 27 spots lower than in its 2015 ranking.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly criticised Algerian authorities for resorting to criminal prosecutions against journalists and others using vaguely worded offences in the penal code.

On Wednesday, President Tebboune ordered the release of 101 detainees held in connection with the Hirak pro-democracy protest movement that has shaken the country sporadically since 2019.

Before the president's announcement, more than 300 people had been in prison for acts related to Hirak and/or individual freedoms, according to the CNLD.

Salhi said the pardons "have lost their meaning" in light of the campaign targeting journalists in Algeria.

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