Algerian president accuses Reporters Without Borders of trying to ‘destabilise’ country
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has accused press watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) of working to "destabilise" the country with its campaign against the jailing of its Algiers correspondent Khaled Drareni.
Rights groups have "targeted" Algeria "to sap the stability of the country", he said in a meeting with local media representatives late Sunday.
"States do not attack us head-on but put non-governmental organisations in charge of the task," said the president, who singled out the France-based RSF for criticism.
Drareni, who is the editor of the Casbah Tribune news website and correspondent for French-language TV5 Monde as well as RSF, was given a two-year jail sentence on September 15.
He was found guilty of "inciting an unarmed gathering" and "endangering national unity", a ruling that drew condemnation at home and abroad.
Tebboune insisted that "nobody is incarcerated [in Algeria] for an article they have written".
"We forbid insults and attacks on issues related to state security," the president said, without elaborating.
Tebboune said Drareni, whose name he avoided using in the encounter, had been sentenced for his "involvement in an affair that has nothing to do with the press".
The journalist, according to Communications Minister Ammar Belhimer, had been working without a professional press card and was allegedly in the pay of "foreign embassies".
After the verdict, RSF head Christophe Deloire said: "We are outraged by the blind stubbornness of the Algerian judges who have just condemned [Drareni].
"Khaled's detention proves the regime locks itself into a logic of absurd, unfair and violent repression," he tweeted.
Algeria ranked 146 out of 180 countries in the RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.