July 4, 2006
Algeria Pardons Imprisoned Journalists
Reporters Without Borders issed a statement praising Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to issue a pardon for journalists convicted of defamation or insulting state institutions. The organization also has asked Bouteflika to continue carrying out political reforms.
“President Bouteflika’s pardon suggests he would like to make a fresh start, but we call on him to confirm this desire by carrying out real reforms that would take the pressure off journalists. The reforms should include the decriminalization of press offences so that journalists can work freely, without fear of getting a prison sentence at any moment,” Reporters Without Borders said.
Mohamed Benchicou, former managing editor of Le Matin was one of the journalists recently released in mid-June after two years in prison . He told Reporters Without Borders that while the release of journalists was welcomed, Bouteflika’s decision was meant to benefit his administration rather than the press.
“It has come late after three years of unprecedented political, police, judicial and fiscal harassment in which seven journalists were imprisoned and 23 others were given prison sentences,” Benchicou said.
An Algiers court heard 67 cases in a special session yesterday and either dismissed charges or imposed only token sentences in all cases, according to journalists and lawyers present.