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Journalist convicted, another sentenced to prison for libel

(RSF/IFEX) - 12 July 2012 - On 7 July 2012, an appeal court in the eastern city of Annaba quashed a two-month prison sentence for libel imposed late in June on Fatma-Zohra Amara, a journalist with the newspaper Akher Sâa.

“Although we are admittedly relieved that the prison sentence has been quashed, we condemn this latest ruling which has upheld the original libel conviction, coupled with a fine and damages, imposed on this journalist, who was only fulfilling her duty of informing the public,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“We consider the sum involved, totalling 120,000 dinars (about 1,200 euros), to be disproportionate.”

The case was the result of a lawsuit brought by the former administrator of a hospital in Annaba who was accused of sexual harassment by an employee. According to the daily El Watan, “in common with other daily newspapers, the Akher Sâa journalist only reported the facts as they occurred”.

Algeria has been sending contradictory signals on its legal approach to matters of press freedom. The authorities made known their desire to scrap prison sentences for press offences when parliament approved Law No. 12-05 on information at the end of 2011.

Despite this, the legal system appears to have disregarded this change of direction up to now, for example in sentencing the journalist Manseur Si Mohammed to prison for libel in May. In practice, the defamation provisions in the criminal code remain in force.

Reporters Without Borders calls for their repeal, and for the decriminalization of press offences to be carried out effectively and properly.

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