19 July 2016

Algeria: RSF Condemns Grotesque Jail Sentences, Albeit Suspended

press release

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the suspended six-month jail sentences that a court in Algiers imposed today on media executives Mehdi Benaissa and Ryad Hartouf of KBC, a TV channel owned by the leading Arabic-language media group El Khabar.

The court, which had refused to release them provisionally on 13 July, passed the sentences after convicting them of making "false statements" to obtain permission to film the KBC current affairs programme Nass Stah. Benaissa is the CEO of KBC while Hartouf is Nass Stah's producer.

The court also imposed fines of 50,000 dinars each on them and culture ministry official Nora Nedjaï and gave Nedjaï a suspended one-year jail sentence.

"We firmly condemn this grotesque and outrageous trial," RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. "A case of this kind should have been handled initially by the new Broadcasting Regulation Authority (ARAV) established on 20 June. It should never have resulted in prison sentences, even suspended ones."

RSF has repeatedly condemned El Khabar's persecution by the authorities in recent weeks. On 13 July, a court voided the sale of a majority stake in El Khabar to Ness Prod, a subsidiary of the industrial group Cevital. The sale would have ensured that the media group would be able to continue operating.

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

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