New York, November 17, 2020 – The Committee to Protect Journalists today expressed disappointment at the conviction and sentencing of Algerian journalist Anis Rahmani for his work as director of Ennahar TV.
On November 15, the Bir Mourad Rais First Instance Court in Algiers sentenced Rahmani, director of the privately owned news broadcaster Ennahar TV, to five years in prison and fined him 100,000 Algeria dinars (US$778), after convicting him on a number of anti-state and defamation charges, according to a report by Ennahar TV and Mustapha Bendjama, a local press freedom advocate familiar with the case, who communicated with CPJ via messaging app.
The anti-state and defamation charges against Rahmani, who has been in custody since February, alleged that the journalist illegally recorded a conversation with a former intelligence services officer in October 2018 and leaked that audio in an Ennahar TV broadcast, according to news reports.
Rahmani, who has close personal ties with ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika—who resigned amid mass protests in 2019—and his family, also faces corruption charges, according to Bendjama and news reports.
“CPJ condemns the conviction and sentencing of journalist Anis Rahmani for his work at Ennahar TV,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour, in Washington, D.C. “While it is important to investigate corruption that occurred under former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, authorities must ensure that journalists do not face prison time for their work.”
On October 9, 2018, intelligence agents arrested an Ennahar TV reporter who published an article critical of the Algerian Intelligence Services, according to news reports. While the journalist was in custody, Ennahar TV aired audio from a telephone conversation between Rahmani and a former Intelligence Services officer identified as “Colonel Ismail,” who asked Rahmani to take down the critical article, which he refused to do, according to news reports.
On February 12, 2020, National Gendarmerie officers arrested Rahmani in Algiers, filed corruption charges against him, and ordered his pretrial detention while the investigation was underway, according to news reports. The following day, the Gendarmerie transferred him to Kolea Prison in the city of Tipaza, outside the capital, according to news reports.
On February 19, the Bir Mourad Rais First Instance court filed additional charges, of insulting a statutory body and invasion of privacy, and ordered he remain in pretrial detention, according to Bendjama and news reports.
In the ensuing months, authorities filed more charges against the journalist, according to Bendjama. By the time of his court hearing on November 8, Rahmani was facing nine criminal charges relating to the leaked audio: insulting an intelligence officer on duty; insulting the army; insulting a statutory body; defamation; invasion of privacy; recording a telephone conversation without permission; disseminating publications harmful to national security; attack on national unity; and exposing the public to propaganda harmful to the national interest, according to news reports.
On November 8, Rahmani was convicted on all the charges relating to the leaked audio, and prosecutors called for him to receive 10 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 dinars, according to news reports. During the trial, Rahmani stood by the decision to leak the audio, saying it was part of his responsibility to protect journalists at Ennahar TV, according to those reports.
CPJ emailed Ennahar TV and the Algerian Ministries of Interior and Justice, but did not receive any responses.