Saad Bouakba
Algerian authorities convicted freelance journalist Saad Bouakba of inciting hate, discrimination, and distributing publications harmful to the national interest in connection to a February 2 article on October 18, 2023. (Screenshot: YouTube/Al-Magharibia TV)

Algerian authorities deliver hefty prison sentences to journalists Saad Bouakba and 3 others

New York, October 20, 2023—Algerian authorities must immediately and unconditionally drop the charges against journalists Saad Bouakba, Zoubir Fadel, Salim Salhi, and Adel Lazizi, and ensure the media can work freely without fear of imprisonment, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On October 18, the Dar el-Beida court in the capital, Algiers, convicted freelance journalist Bouakba of inciting hate, discrimination, and distributing publications harmful to the national interest, in connection with a February 2 article he wrote criticizing President Abdelmajid Tebboune’s livestock project in the city of Djelfa, south of Algiers. The article was published by local independent news website el-Madar TV.

During that same hearing, the court convicted Salhi and Lazizi, el-Madar TV managers, and Fadel, a reporter at local independent news website al-Khabar, on the same charges, according to news reports and Salhi, who added that Fadel’s charges stemmed from republishing the February 2 article on al-Khabar.

The court sentenced Bouakba and Fadel to one year in prison on a six-month suspended sentence and issued a fine of 200,000 dinars (US$1,450), which they appealed, according to those sources. Bouakba and Fadel are not currently in custody, and their appeal hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The court sentenced in absentia Salhi and Lazizi to three years in prison for publishing the February 2 article on el-Madar. Salhi and Lazizi are both based in London, and they plan to appeal the verdict, according to Salhi.

“Sentencing journalists Saad Bouakba and Zoubir Fadel to one year in prison and journalists Salim Salhi and Adel Lazizi to three years over an article is a clear example of the Algerian government’s determination to crack down on press freedom,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator in Washington, D.C. “Algerian authorities must immediately drop the charges against these journalists, and allow members of the press to work freely without intimidation.”

Bouakba, who covers local political news in his el-Madar TV column “Noktet Nizam,” previously contributed to Saudi broadcaster al-Arabiya, according to CPJ’s review of his work.

When CPJ conducted its most recent annual prison census on December 1, 2022, one journalist was imprisoned in Algeria. Since then, authorities have arrested and sentenced journalists Ihsane el-Kadi, Mustapha Bendjama, and Raouf Farrah.

CPJ’s email to the Algerian Ministry of Interior did not receive a response.

Editor’s note: This text has been updated throughout to correct the English spelling of the names of Salim Salhi, Adel Lazizi, and Zoubir Fadel.