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The New Arab

Human rights groups demand release of Algerian journalist as crackdown on press continues

Khaled Drarerni was arrested for covering protests by the Hirak movement [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 May, 2020

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Human rights groups are calling for the release of Reporters Without Borders journalist Khaled Drareni as Algeria cracks down on free speech while the coronavirus pandemic is going on.
Human rights groups including Amnesty International called on Algeria to release a journalist arrested last month amid an ongoing crackdown on independent media in the North African country.

Khaled Drareni, the founder of the CasbahTribune news website, is also correspondent for the French TV channel TV5Monde and a representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in Algeria.

Authorities arrested Drareni on 7 March while he was covering demonstrations by the Hirak movement, which led the protests that forced former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign in April 2019.

He was released a few days later and placed under judicial supervision, but the police arrested him again on 27 March.

Read also: Algerian satirical meme creator arrested for criticising president in coronavirus crackdown

Prosecutors charged him with "incitement to unarmed gathering" and "harming the integrity of the national territory", which could lead to a sentence of up to ten years in prison.



Drareni had done significant reporting on the Hirak protests and exposed the government's crackdown on freedom of speech and assembly in Algeria through videos and photos posted online.

He had been vocal in his criticism of the authorities' way of meeting the demands of the protest, calling it "cosmetic". Khaled Drareni is currently detained in Kolea prison in Tipaza, west of Algiers.

"The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Khaled and end the outrageous prosecution of him. 
He is being punished simply for daring to do his journalistic work independently and bravely. Journalism should never be a punishable crime," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa director said.

Algerian authorities have previously blocked online news websites which covered the "Hirak" protest movement, including Maghreb Emergent and Radio M. RSF has also voiced concern that a draft law aiming to criminaliz "fake news" could be used as a means to muzzle the press.


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