CPJ urges Algeria’s Prime Minister to release freelance journalist and fixer Said Chitour

His Excellency Prime Minister of Algeria Ahmed Ouyahia
Doctor Saadan Street
Algiers, Algeria 16000

Via Fax: +213 21 736118

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dear Prime Minister Ouyahia,

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent press freedom advocacy organization, writes to urge your government to drop the charges against and immediately release freelance journalist and fixer Said Chitour, who is being held in Algiers’ El-Harrach Prison pending trial on allegations of espionage.

Police arrested Chitour at Algiers International Airport on June 5 as he returned from Spain, according to media reports and the journalists’ family. After months of detention without charge, on November 12, 2017, the Bir Mourad Rais Court charged Chitour with leaking sensitive government documents to foreign diplomats and sent his file to the criminal court, according to news reports and his sister Alia Farhat.

Chitour’s family told CPJ that the journalist denied leaking any documents to foreign officials, and would not have even had access to the kind of documents described in the charges against him.

Chitour works as a freelance journalist and fixer, including for international news outlets such as the BBC, France 24, and The Washington Post. His work covered a wide range of topics from politics to social and cultural life. Producers and reporters at the BBC confirmed to CPJ that Chitour had regularly worked with the outlet as a journalist.

Chitour’s prolonged detention sends a chilling message to journalists in Algeria, especially those working with foreign media. The journalist also suffers from several chronic diseases, including diabetes, and his health has deteriorated in prison, according to his family.

In an October 25 interview with state-owned Algerian radio broadcaster Chaine 3, Your Excellency reaffirmed Algeria’s commitment to press freedom, and denied any intentions to pursue legal action against critical voices. In the absence of any evidence that Said Chitour did anything other than practice journalism, we urge you to ensure that he is released immediately and that all the charges against him are dropped.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this urgent matter.

Yours Sincerely,

Sherif Mansour

Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator

CC: His Excellency Minister of Interior Noureddine Bedoui
His Excellency Minister of Justice Tayeb Louh
His Excellency Algerian Ambassador to Washington D.C. Madjid Bouguerra