13 July 2016

Algeria: RSF Condemns Jailing of KBC TV Executives

press release

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is outraged by the detention of the head of the KBC TV channel and a KBC producer for the past three days, in what is the latest attack on the TV channel's independence, and calls for their immediate release.

Mehdi Benaissa, the CEO of KBC, and Ryad Hartouf, the producer of the satirical programme Ness Stah, were questioned by a prosecutor and then placed in pre-trial detention by an investigating judge in the Algiers district of Sidi M'hamed on the evening of 24 June.

They were charged with making "false statements" in order to obtain permits needed to produce Ness Stah. Mounia Nedjaï, a culture ministry official, was charged with complicity in the abuse of a public position. KBC is owned by the Arabic-language media group El Khabar.

"Jailing KBC executives is incomprehensible and unacceptable," said Yasmine Kacha, the head of RSF's North Africa desk. "Media personnel are supposed to benefit from the recent constitutional provisions on media freedom, which abolished prison sentences for journalists. Furthermore, this dispute should have handled initially by the new Broadcasting Regulation Authority (ARAV) established on 20 June."

The two TV executives are facing the possibility of three years in prison and a fine of 20,000 to 100,000 dinars (165 to 820 euros) under Algeria's criminal code. The culture ministry official is facing a possible sentence of two to ten years in prison and a fine of 200,000 to 1 million dinars (1,600 to 8,200 euros) under the 2006 law on preventing and combatting corruption.

El Khabar's lawyers filed an appeal yesterday, hoping to get a judge to issue an order releasing Benaissa and Hartouf provisionally or, failing that, placing them under judicial control (instead of in custody).

On 23 June, the day prior to the arrests, members of the national gendarmerie raided the studios where Ness Stah was being filmed and stopped all further production. The satirical programme was being broadcast daily during the month of Ramadan.

Reacting to the raid the next day, RSF condemned the attacks on independent journalism in Algeria and voiced its solidarity with all the journalists affected.

Algeria is ranked 129th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

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