Radio M journalist Kenza Khattou remains in detention in Algeria; at least 15 other journalists were briefly detained when she was arrested on May 14. (Photo: YouTube/Radio M)

Algerian police arrest at least 16 journalists, reporter Kenza Khattou remains in detention

New York, May 17, 2021 – Algerian authorities must immediately release journalist Kenza Khattou and cease detaining members of the press covering protests, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On May 14, police arrested Khattou, a reporter for local independent news website Radio M, while she was covering anti-government protests in downtown Algiers, according to a report by Radio M and local journalists and press freedom advocates Bouzid Ichalalene and Mustapha Bendjama, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

As of today, Khattou remains in police custody without any charges disclosed, Ichalalene said. Yesterday, a judge extended her pretrial detention by 24 hours, and did so again today, according to those sources and news reports. She is expected to appear before state prosecutors at a hearing in the Sidi M’hamed court tomorrow, according to her employer’s report.

“Algerian authorities must learn that arresting journalists will not make protests in the country stop, and may in fact bring more protests,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Authorities must immediately and unconditionally release journalist Kenza Khattou and let journalists do their jobs without fear of being thrown in jail.”

Khattou has covered demonstrations calling for a new government in Algeria, which began in February 2019, and has also reported on political prisoners and violations against journalists in the country, according to CPJ’s review of her work.

On May 14, authorities also arrested at least 15 other journalists while they were covering the protests in downtown Algiers, all of whom were released later that day, according to Bendjama and Ichalalene, who identified the journalists as:

  • Farida Cherrad, a reporter for local news website Tariq News
  • Widad Laoued, a reporter for Tariq News
  • Souhil Baghdadi, a photographer for local independent daily Al-Watan
  • Sami Kharoum, a photographer for Al-Watan
  • Sid Ahmed Belouchrani (also known as Sid Walinés), a reporter for local independent news website Maghreb Émergent
  • Lynda Abbou, a reporter for Maghreb Émergent
  • Khaled Drareni, director of the independent news website Casbah Tribune
  • Feriel Bouaziz, a reporter for the independent news website Interlignes
  • Hakim Hammiche, a freelance photographer
  • Larbi Lounes, a photographer for local news website Horizons
  • Djaafer Kheloufi, a reporter for Russian state-run news outlet Sputnik
  • Riad Kermadi, a photographer for Agence France-Presse
  • Nassim Abdelaziz, a photographer for Reuters
  • Mustapha Bastami, a reporter for the independent news website Al-Khabar
  • Yacine Benrabia, a freelance journalist

Police held the journalists for at least three hours before releasing them without charge, according to Interlinges reporter Bouaziz, who spoke to CPJ over messaging app.

On May 12, authorities detained Drareni, Kharoum, Bouaziz, Bastami, and Hammiche, alongside Tariq News reporter Abdessemad Titraoui, while they were covering the protests in downtown Algiers, and then released them without charge, as CPJ documented at the time.

CPJ emailed the Algerian Ministry of Interior for comment but did not receive any response.