New York, October 12, 2023—Algerian authorities must drop all charges against journalist Saad Bouakba and refrain from prosecuting members of the press over their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
At a court hearing in Algiers on Wednesday, the state prosecutor requested a five-year prison sentence and a fine of 500,000 Algerian dinars (US$3,639) for Bouakba, a freelance journalist, over a February 2 article he published on local independent news website el-Madar TV that criticized President Abdelmajid Tebboune’s livestock project in the city of Djelfa, south of Algiers, according to news reports and a local journalist who is following the case and spoke to CPJ via messaging app on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
Bouakba, who is facing charges of inciting hate and distributing publications harmful to the national interest, is not currently in custody. The verdict in his trialis scheduled for October 18, according to those sources.
Bouakba was initially arrested on February 4, following a complaint by the Djelfa city council over the article. On February 6, an Algiers court released him under judiciary control, confiscating his phone and banning him from traveling outside the country.
“The lengthy prison sentence requested by Algeria’s state prosecutor for journalist Saad Bouakba over an article is extremely cruel,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Algerian authorities must immediately and unconditionally drop the charges against Bouakba, end all restrictions imposed under judiciary control, and stop prosecuting journalists over their work.”
CPJ has documented recent multi-year sentences for Algerian journalists. On June 18, an Algiers appeals court increased imprisoned journalist Ihsane el-Kadi’s sentence from five to seven years in prison, on charges of receiving foreign funding for his business. On August 29, journalist Mustapha Bendjama was sentenced to two years in prison a week after the state prosecutor requested a three-year sentence.
CPJ emailed the Algerian Ministry of Interior for comment about Bouakba, but did not receive any response.