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Journalist given three-month suspended sentence

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 27 October 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns Conviction of Algerian Journalist

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today said that the conviction of Noureddine Boukraa on charges stemming from a complaint about an investigative article about local police is a clear attempt to intimidate the journalist for his work.

On Sunday, Boukraa was given a three-month suspended sentence and fined 30,000 Algerian dinars (290 euros) after his conviction on charges stemming from a complaint by the public security chief in Annaba, Draia Messaoud, over a November 12, 2007 article in which the journalist accused members of the local police force of influence-peddling.

"This case was a sham based on the authorities desire to intimidate Noureddine and other Algerian journalists whose investigative reporting is critical of the government," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "There have been repeated attempts to prosecute journalists to create a hostile atmosphere for independent journalism."

Authorities had originally requested a one-year jail sentence for Boukraa, whom they charged with "disclosing secrets from an investigation through the use of confidential documents", "attacking the honour of a state body" and "defamation."

This is not the first time that Boukraa has faced charges in connection with his work. Last year he was detained based on a complaint from an industrialist, Ahmed Zaim, whom he had accused of bribing judges in a 2005 article in the daily newspaper Echourouk.

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

"These attacks on journalists are the result of Algeria's repressive press laws," said Nadir Benseba, the co-ordinator of the IFJ Algeria Solidarity Centre. "We are calling on government leaders to end this pressure on media and allow them to work freely."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

Updates the Boukraa case:

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