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Journalist held overnight in police station following publication of article about links between security forces and organised crime

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest of Noureddine Boukraa, the national daily "Ennahar"'s bureau chief in the city of Annaba (600 km east of Algiers), who was detained on 12 November 2007 in connection with an article about alleged corruption within the local security services and was held overnight.

"Algeria's journalists are not able to work freely, despite the deceptive calm they seem to have enjoyed since the start of the year," the press freedom organisation said. "Stories about corruption in the provinces can always land them in the local police station."

"Boukraa's arrest is unacceptable," Reporters Without Borders added. "He would have responded to a summons if the local prosecutor had taken the trouble to send him one. Instead he was treated like a criminal."

Boukraa was arrested by four local police officers with a warrant signed by the city's prosecutor and was taken to plain-clothes police headquarters, where he was told a complaint had been brought against him for libel. The police refused to tell him the plaintiff's name or let him contact his lawyer.

After spending the night in a cell, he was taken on 13 November before an investigating judge and finally learned that the plaintiff was an industrialist, Ahmed Zaim, whom he had accused of bribing judges in a 2005 article in the daily newspaper "Echourouk".

"The judge asked me to identify my informants and even tried to give me lessons in journalism," Boukraa told Reporters Without Borders. "When you implicate the regime's bigwigs, you have to expect a reaction." He said he thought his arrest was above all prompted by an article on 12 November about the trial of a former senior police intelligence official opening that day in which he referred to the "links between the security forces and the local mafia."

Algeria ranked 123rd out of 169 countries in the world press freedom index published last month by Reporters Without Borders.

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