New York, November 8, 2023 – The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the additional six-month prison sentence issued to Algerian journalist Mustapha Bendjama on Tuesday, November 7.
“Imposing a new prison sentence on journalist Mustapha Bendjama just when he was due to be released shows how determined the Algerian government is to keep independent journalists behind bars,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Algerian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Bendjama, drop all charges against him, and ensure that journalists in the country can work freely without fear of imprisonment.”
On November 7, a court in the eastern city of Constantine sentenced Bendjama, editor-in-chief of local independent news website Le Provincial, to six months in prison for “committing an illegal immigration crime” for allegedly helping French Algerian journalist Amira Bouraoui flee to France earlier this year, according to news reports. Bouraoui, who is banned from traveling outside of Algeria, denied that Bendjama had any connection to her traveling out of the country.
Bendjama has been in custody since police arrested him on February 8 from his office in Annaba, in northeast Algeria. On August 29, a court sentenced him to two years in prison on charges of receiving foreign funding to commit acts against public order and publishing classified information in a separate case.
On October 26, a Constantine court reduced Bendjama’s two-year sentence to 20 months – eight months in prison and 12 months suspended, meaning he would be released immediately, according to news reports. Instead, Bendjama was held in custody and convicted again on November 7.
CPJ emailed the Algerian Ministry of Interior for comment but did not receive any response.