New York, April 20, 2021 – Algerian authorities must immediately set free journalist Rabah Karèche and cease their investigation into his work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On April 18, judicial police in the southern city of Tamanrasset arrested Karèche, a correspondent for the daily privately owned newspaper Liberté, after he responded to a summons for questioning, according to news reports and a statement by his employer.
At a court hearing in Tamanrasset yesterday, authorities accused the journalist of disseminating “false news harmful to the public order,” undermining national security and unity, and using an electronic account to disseminate “information prone to causing segregation and hatred in society,” according to those sources and local journalist and press freedom advocate Mustapha Bendjama, who is following the case and spoke to CPJ over messaging app.
A judge ordered Karèche to be detained until the investigation into those allegations concludes, according to those sources.
“Algerian authorities should not imprison journalists for reporting on minority communities–instead, they must prioritize the public’s access to information,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Senior Researcher Justin Shilad. “Authorities must immediately release Rabah Karèche, drop all charges against him, and allow journalists to report freely in the country.”
During his questioning on April 18, police interrogated Karèche about an article he published earlier that day on land-use protests by members of the Tuareg tribe in southern Algeria, according to his employer’s statement, which said that police then transferred him to the custody of the state prosecutor’s office.
Previously, the judicial police had summoned Karèche five other times, most recently on March 29, and questioned him about his reporting on the Tuareg protests, according to Bendjama and news reports. Karèche covers topics for Liberté including those protests, sub-Saharan Africans immigrating to Europe, and other human rights issues, according to CPJ’s review of his work.
In April 2020, the Algerian government criminalized the dissemination of “false news” that “harms national unity,” CPJ documented at the time; if convicted of those charges alone, Karèche could face a prison sentence of two to five years, and a fine of 100,000 to 500,000 Algerian dinars (US$778 to $3,891).
CPJ emailed the Algerian Ministry of Communications for comment but did not receive any response.