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Ghardaïa court confirms six-month prison term against "El Waha" editor for defamation

(CALP/IFEX) - On 2 March 2009, Nedjar Hadj Daoud, editor of the regional weekly "El Waha", was arrested at his newspaper's head office and taken to prison after being found guilty of defaming a municipal government employee. Hadj Daoud's paper has been banned since 2006 and he has been named in more than 25 defamation lawsuits.

The latest verdict stems from a 2005 defamation suit brought by a city worker in the municipality of Ghardaïa, a desert community approximately 500 km south of Algiers. On 14 November 2005, Hadj Daoud was convicted by a lower court and sentenced to six months in prison. He appealed the verdict, but it was confirmed at the appeal court level. He then appealed to the Court of Cassation but the court rejected his appeal and referred the case back to the Ghardaïa court. On 2 March, the Ghardaïa court ruled against Hadj Daoud, confirming the original sentence of six months' imprisonment.

Meanwhile, Hadj Daoud has been named in a number of other lawsuits brought by local government officials who have taken issue with his newspaper's reporting on corruption, mismanagement and influence peddling. In 2005, Hadj Daoud published a critical review of the Algerian press, detailing the various threats and pressures faced by the journalistic profession in Algeria.

Algerian journalists are currently circulating a petition demanding Hadj Daoud's release and an end to his harassment.

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