UN experts demand release of jailed Algerian journalist

GENEVA: A journalist jailed for his coverage of mass protests in Algeria must be released, United Nations independent experts said on Wednesday. Khaled Drareni was jailed for two years on Tuesday as a crackdown on dissent intensifies after a year of anti-government demonstrations. He was jailed for his coverage of the protest movement that toppled the North African country’s longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika last year.
Drareni was initially handed three years but his sentence was reduced by a year on appeal.
However, his lawyers were shocked that he was not handed a more lenient judgment or an acquittal.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this two-year prison sentence imposed on a journalist who was simply doing his job, and call on the Algerian authorities to reverse it and set Mr Drareni free,” the experts said.
The experts do not speak for the UN but report their findings to it.
Although his sentence was reduced, “it is still grossly inappropriate because the charges brought against him are a blatant violation of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and of association”, they said.
The eight signatories included the special rapporteurs on peaceful assembly, freedom of opinion and human rights defenders, along with members of the UN working group on arbitrary detention.
They said they were alarmed that the Algerian authorities were increasingly using national security laws to prosecute people who were exercising their rights. “Drareni, and all the others currently in prison, or awaiting trial simply for doing their job and defending human rights must be immediately released and protected,” they said. — AFP