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Blogger charged with criminal defamation for criticising official

(HRinfo/IFEX) - The Algerian government must drop the defamation charge against blogger "Abd el Salam Baroudy", administrator of the "Bilad Telmesan" blog ( http://bilad-13.maktoobblog.com ), for criticizing an official in an article published in February 2007. Baroudy is scheduled to face the Telmesan First Degree Court on 11 June 2007.

In his article, Baroudy criticized the chair of Religious Affairs and Endowment in Telmesan province for banning cooperation between imams (religious leaders) from mosques and local broadcasters. The official in question then charged Baroudy for defamation, which carries a sentence of six months in prison and a fine of 1,500 Algerian Dinars (approx. US$21).

"In a country such as Algeria, which suffers from widespread violence, it becomes all the more crucial to defend freedom of opinion and expression and the new government must respect the right to political criticism," said HRinfo Executive Director Gamal Eid.

Responding to the case, Baroudy said in his blog, " . . .I am merely expressing my opinion about an official who believes he is in a class and rank that is above suspicion and beyond appeal, and who does not condone being written about or criticized."

"The new government in Algeria must take note of Baroudy's words if it wants to gain credibility and a good reputation as regards freedom of expression," HRinfo added.

Algerian bloggers succeeded in drawing attention to their work when journalist "Ali Rahaliya" in his blog managed to persuade the president to suspend a law on privatization in February 2007.

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