New York, December 23, 2008--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the decision by an Algerian court to sentence an editor-in-chief and a journalist at the Algiers-based independent daily El Watan to a three-month jail term each for defamation on Monday.
Omar Belhouchet, editor
of El Watan, and reporter Salima Tlemcani, were found guilty of
defaming a faith healer and Islam in a 2004 article
about the "charlatan-like practices" of the
After the story appeared, the Ethics Committee of the Algerian Physicians' Syndicate investigated the healer, eventually shuttering his practice. The man filed a defamation suit after that, Borayou said.
"It is deplorable that the court has handed down two prison
terms in a case filed by a man who has since been prohibited from practicing by
the authorities," said
Dr. Sebabou Mohamed, a licensed physician who turned to faith healing, claiming he could exorcise ghosts from his patients, filed a defamation lawsuit against Tlemcani after she wrote an investigative piece about his practice, Bourayou said.
The physician-turned-healer did not testify at or attend any of the court proceedings, Bourayou told CPJ.