Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni is serving a two-year prison sentence. Algerian authorities initially arrested Drareni on March 7, 2020 for covering Algeria’s anti-government protest movement on Facebook.
Drareni is a correspondent for global press freedom group Reporters Without Borders and for the French broadcaster TV5 Monde. According to news reports, the journalist is also the co-founder of the local news website Casbah Tribune, and the host of a political commentary show called Café Presse Politique (CPP) on the local independent radio website Radio M. CPP covered the anti-government Algerian protests and discussed political prisoners, according to CPJ’s review of the program.
On March 7, Algerian police arrested Drareni while he was covering anti-government protests in Algiers, interrogated him multiple times, and detained him at a police station in the city center, according to news reports and Human Rights Watch. On March 10, prosecutors charged Drareni with inciting an unarmed assembly and harming national unity, and ordered his provisional release pending an investigation into these charges, according to reports.
On March 25, the Court of Algiers ordered Drareni to be rearrested and held until the conclusion of the investigation, according to Algerian journalist and press freedom advocate Bouzid Ichalalene, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app at the time, and news reports. Drareni’s lawyers advised him to go into hiding but he refused, Ichalalene told CPJ at the time.
Algerian police again arrested Drareni on March 27 at his home in Algiers and kept him in a police station for two nights, Ichalalene told CPJ at the time. Two days later, the Sidi M’Hamed criminal court in Algiers ordered his detention in El-Harrach prison in Algiers, according to Ichalalene. On March 30 the court moved Drareni to Kolea prison outside the capital, according to news reports and rights group the Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties.
Prosecutors used Drareni’s Facebook posts featuring video coverage of Algeria’s anti-government protest movement since February 2019 as evidence in the case against him, according to a statement by Reporters Without Borders and Mustapha Bendjama, a local journalist and press freedom advocate, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
On August 3, Algeria’s state prosecutor called for a four-year sentence and a fine of 100,000 Algerian dinars (US$788) for Drareni, according to news reports. On August 10, the Sidi M’Hamed court sentenced him to three years in prison and a fine of 50,000 Algerian dinars (US$389) after convicting the journalist of inciting an unarmed assembly and harming national unity, according to news reports. On September 15, an appeals court in Algiers reduced Drareni’s sentence to two years and a fine of 200,000 Algerian dinars (US$1576), according to news reports.
Drareni is held in the Kolea prison in the town of Tipaza outside Algiers, according to Chekib Drareni, the journalist’s brother, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app in September 2020. Drareni’s overall health is stable, but he appears to have lost a significant amount of weight in prison, according to the journalist’s brother, who lives abroad, but is in touch with family members who have been able to visit the journalist.
The Algerian Ministry of Interior did not return CPJ’s emailed request for comment about Drareni sent in September 2020.