UN human rights experts* today condemned the prison sentence handed down on appeal to an Algerian journalist and human
rights defender, Khaled Drareni who has become a symbol of press freedom in the North African country. They called on
Algerian authorities to overturn the sentence and release Drareni from prison.
“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.
Drareni, 40, had been sentenced in August to three years in prison for filming police attacking demonstrators in Algiers
on charges officially called inciting an illegal assembly and endangering national unity. Although reduced two-year
sentence was confirmed yesterday (15 September), “it is still grossly inappropriate because the charges brought against
him are a blatant violation of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and of association,” the experts said.
The demonstration he filmed was part of the year-long Hirak protest movement that began in February 2019 and continued
for more than a year, even after achieving its original goal – removal of long-time president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Protests moved from the streets to online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The human rights experts also criticised legal and judicial measures aimed at curbing press freedom in Algeria, and
called for the release of all political activists and human rights defenders.
“We are very alarmed at the extent of crackdown on dissent in Algeria,” the experts said. “Civil society organisations,
human rights defenders and journalists are being increasingly scrutinized and harassed for carrying out their legitimate
“Under international law, any person who monitors an assembly must be protected by the State, whether it is a
journalist, a member of national human rights institution or an ordinary citizen,” the experts said. “It is unacceptable
to arrest anyone – especially a journalist – for simply disseminating a video that shows security forces using violence
They said Algerian authorities are increasingly using national security laws to prosecute people who exercise their
rights to freedoms of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly and association.
The experts expressed concern about restrictive new laws, such as Law 20-06 passed earlier this year behind closed
doors, that criminalises dissemination of false news and financing of any association which might undermine the state or
the fundamental interests of Algeria.
“This law paves the way for more arrests and detention of dissidents, such as demonstrators and supporters of the Hirak
Movement,” the experts said.
“We strongly urge the government to halt the arrest and detention of political activists, lawyers, journalists, and
human rights defenders, as well as any person who expresses dissent or criticism of the government,” the experts said.
“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.”