This statement was originally published on pen-international.org on
PEN International condemns the attack against journalists Reda Amrani and Rachid At Ali Uqasi as they were preparing to give a conference to launch a TV channel promoting Kabyle language and culture. The Algerian authorities must guarantee the safety of journalists. They should urgently open and conduct a thorough investigation into the attack against Amrani and Ali Uqasi and bring those responsible to justice.
On 4 September 2017, Amrani and Uqasi were attacked by a group of people while driving to the conference location in Akbou (Aqvu), a town in Béjaïa Province, northern Algeria. The two journalists were urgently taken to hospital, where they received treatment for their injuries. In spite of the attack and earlier harassment from the Algerian authorities, the journalists went ahead with their conference later the same day. At the event, they spoke about the creation of the new Kabyle language TV channel, and its importance in safeguarding the Kabyle language and identity. Kabyle is a Berber language spoken mainly in Algeria by persons belonging to the Berber group.
The pair had originally planned to launch the TV channel on 1 September in Tamazirt, however gendarmes intervened surrounding the public square where the conference was due to be held. The Mayor declared that "this event runs counter to the founding principles of the Algerian state of which Arab-Islamism is the matrix and the base". He added that the event is "under the control of the gendarmerie and the security forces in the Kabylie region". Due to this, the conference was cancelled; however the journalists were determined to go ahead and relocated the event to Akbou.
Both Amrani and Uqasi, originally from Algeria but based in Canada, are co-directors of the future channel TQ5. They had recently arrived in Algeria, where they planned to launch the TV channel and explain to the Kabyle people the importance of their project to promote and safeguard the Kabyle language.
"Harassment by the Algerian authorities over the organisation of cultural events in Kabylie region not only undermines freedom of expression, but respect for the Kabyle language and culture, rights which are fundamental to sustainable peace," said Simona Škrabec, Chair of PEN's Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee.
The authorities have prevented conferences and cultural events from taking place in the Kabylie region on numerous occasions. In one instance, on 19 December 2015, a conference by Rachid At Ali Uqaci was cancelled by the authorities at the last moment, without providing any justification, according to l'Association Culturelle Tiɛwinin, the organizer of this event.
Reda Amrani is a comedian and a film director. He has participated in several projects with the Algerian National Theatre, and directed several films. In 2006, Amrani won the Best Young Creator in Drama Arts in the Algerian National Forum of Youth, and in 2012, he won a prize for best actor in the Amazigh Cultural Festival and Theatre; he was the recipient of the annual CAM (Amazigh Center of Montreal) in 2017. He is currently the Artistic Director of the forthcoming television channel TQ5.
Rachid At Ali Uqasi is a Doctor in Electronic Technologies and Computing. He teaches the Tamazight language at the Ottawa-Carlton District School. Uqasi is an active member of the Amazigh (North African peoples) movement, through which he champions the rights of Amazigh peoples for their language and culture to be recognized in North Africa. Uqasi contributes to several Algerian newspapers, such as Le MatinDZ and Tamurt.