- Algerian newspaper columnist Sid Ahmed Semiane has been given a six-month jail sentence for libel. Mr Semiane had written an article about government misappropriation of funds. Also his editor and newspaper were fined.
On 4 November, a court in the Sidi M'hammed suburb of Algiers sentenced Mr Semiane in absentia. The Defence Ministry had filed complaints against the journalist, who previously wrote for the daily 'Le Matin' and currently lives in Paris.
The court also fined the newspaper's managing editor, Mohamed Benchicou, 100,000 dinars (approx. US$ 1,450; 1,230 euros). The newspaper itself was fined another 200,000 dinars (approx. US$ 2,900; 2,460 euros).
The same day, amid great publicity, an Algiers court handed Farid Alilat, managing editor of the daily 'Liberté', a four-month suspended prison sentence and fined him 100,000 dinars for "insulting the head of state". One of the newspaper's journalists, Rafik Hamou, was also fined 100,000 dinars.
'Liberté' itself was fined two million dinars (approx. US$ 29,000; 24,700 euros) under Article 144b of the amended Criminal Code for running a front-page headline on 11 August that read, "All of them are thieves".
The headline accompanied a story reprinted from the daily 'El Khabar', which said top government officials had misappropriated housing belonging to the Foreign Ministry.
According to the Paris-based media watchdogs, Reporters sans Frontičres (RSF), the sentencing of Mr Semiane comes amid "increasing harassment of the press, with more than 20 independent journalists summoned by the authorities since September."
RSF said the case had also highlighted the Algerian privately-owned press' "current malaise" since, with the exception of 'Le Quotidien d'Oran', the media had not reported on it. The perhaps was "because it involves a complaint by the army rather than the presidency," the French group assumes.
RSF today strongly condemned the six-month prison sentence against Mr Semiane - who in Algeria is better known by the pseudonym "S.A.S.". The group said it was "alarmed over the Algerian government's continuing harassment of the independent press."
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