Harassment by authorities continues

New York, September 10, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns Algerian authorities’ recent detention of two journalists, Mohamed Benchicou, managing editor of the French-language daily Le Matin, and Ali Dilem, a cartoonist with the French-language daily Liberté.

Youssef Razzouj, Le Matin‘s editor, told CPJ that police arrested Benchicou on Monday, September 8, at his home and took him in for questioning. According to Razzouj, Benchicou was released after being queried about several recent articles in Le Matin about government corruption and financial malfeasance.

Yesterday, an investigating judge quizzed Benchicou about the same articles and editorials in the paper. State prosecutors allege that the articles defame President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Police also detained Ali Dilem, a cartoonist at Liberté, on September 8, and released him the same day. Like Benchicou, Dilem faced an investigating judge yesterday, who questioned him about several of his recent cartoons, which allegedly insulted the Algerian president. Dilem was not charged but is due to face more questioning as the investigation continues.

Last month, Algerian state printers refused to print a number of private newspapers saying they owed money. While none of the newspapers editors denied that they owed money to the printers, they accused Algerian officials of using the debt to pressure newspapers because of their editorial content.