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Journalist sentenced to jail; another summoned on defamation charges; a third harassed by authorities for critical reporting

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns Wave of Attacks on Journalists in Algeria

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned a wave of recent attacks on journalists in Algeria, particularly in the Djelfa, where journalists are being charged under the penal code for press offences.

"The Algerian government use of the criminal code to prosecute journalists has created a hostile atmosphere for independent journalism," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "We are calling on the government to decriminalise press offences and stop sending reporters to jail."

The IFJ and its Algerian affiliate, the Syndicat National des Journalistes (SNJ) have been urging authorities to decriminalise press offences, ensure fair trials for media and a withdrawal of prison sentences against journalists.

On Monday Dhif Talal, correspondent for the Arabic-language newspaper Al Fadjr in Djelfa, was sentenced under the penal code to 6 months in jail after he was convicted on defamation charges brought against him by the Ministry of Agriculture. The charges stemmed from an article Talal wrote exposing huge losses of public funds due to poor administration in the local Department of Agriculture.

Talal plans to appeal his sentence.

In the same region, Ouahid Oussama, correspondent at daily Arabic-language newspaper Al Bilad, has been summoned to appear before the court on 19 November to face defamation charges. The Director of the Department of Education of Djelfa brought the charges after the journalist made a report criticizing the failures of the education system in Djelfa.

Another journalist in Djelfa, El-Youm correspondent Hafnaoui Ghoul, has been harassed by the local authorities for his critical reporting of local authorities' practices.

"Algeria has been using its criminal law to silence any critical voices and journalists continue to be victims of this repressive tactic," White said. "We are calling on the government to make a commitment to press freedom and to allow the media to work independently without fear of reprisals."

The IFJ has worked with the SNJ and other affiliates worldwide to end criminal defamation laws that can lead to jail terms for journalists.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide.

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