Algerian journalist Mohamed Mokaddem, who works in journalism under the pen name Anis Rahmani, is serving a five-year prison term on multiple anti-state and defamation charges.
In a 2017 interview with the broadcaster he founded, Ennahar TV, Rahmani said he began his career in journalism in the 1990s reporting for local magazine Al-Oumma, weekly regional newspaper Al-Moudtakillah, and local newspaper Al-Khabar. He served as the editorial manager of local daily Echourouk before starting his own publication in 2007, the daily newspaper Ennahar el-Jadid. In 2012, he expanded the publication by creating the affiliated news broadcaster Ennahar TV.
On February 12, 2020, National Gendarmerie officers in plain clothes arrested Rahmani while he was on his way to visit his mother’s home in the Al-Harrach suburbs of Algiers, on allegations that he violated various financial laws, according to a report on the incident on Ennahar TV’s Youtube channel and Algerian press freedom advocate Mustapha Bendjama, who is following the case and spoke with CPJ via messaging app.
On February 13, 2020, the gendarmerie filled multiple corruption charges against Rahmani, including exploiting his influence and obtaining unjustified concessions, having illegal financial assets abroad, and the illegal allocation of capital to and from Algeria, according to news reports. The gendarmerie also ordered Rahmani’s pretrial detention in Kolea prison in Tipaza, outside Algiers, according to Bendjama. As of September 2021, these charges, which Bendjama said are not related to Rahmani’s journalism, are still pending.
Six days after the initial charges were brought, Rahmani was then charged in relation to his journalistic activity. On February 19, 2020, the Bir Mourad Rais First Instance Court charged him with insulting a statutory body and invasion of privacy for leaking an audio recording of a telephone conversation in October 2018, according to news reports. The court ordered him to remain in pretrial detention until the conclusion of his trial, according to Bendjama.
The leaked recording relates to the arrest of Rahmani’s colleague, journalist Smail Adherbal, a reporter for Ennahar TV. On October 9, 2018, intelligence agents took Adherbal into custody outside of the channel’s headquarters for his October 8 article in Ennahar TV subsidiary ALG24 criticizing the Algerian Intelligence Services, according to Ennahar TV and news reports.
Before Adherbal was released on the same day of his arrest, Ennahar TV broadcasted an October 8 telephone conversation recorded between Rahmani and a former intelligence services officer identified in the TV report as “Colonel Ismail” in which the officer asked him to take down Adherbal’s article, which Rahmani refused to do, according to news reports.
In a hearing on November 8, 2020, at the Bir Mourad Rais First Instance Court, Rahmani was convicted on nine charges relating to the leaked audio: insulting an intelligence officer on duty; insulting the army; insulting a statutory body; defamation; invasion of privacy; recording a telephone conversation without permission; disseminating publications harmful to national security; attacking national unity; and exposing the public to propaganda harmful to the national interest, according to news reports.
During the November 8, 2020 hearing, Rahamni admitted leaking the audio, calling it part of his legal and moral responsibility to protect Ennahar TV journalists, according to news reports. Algeria’s state prosecutor initially called for a 10-year prison sentence and a 100,000 Algerian dinar fine (US$778), according to news reports.
On November 15, 2020, the Bir Mourad Rais First Instance Court in Algiers sentenced Rahmani to five years in prison and a fine of 100,000 dinars (US$720), according to Ennahar TV and Bendjama.
As of September 2021, Rahmani was in Kolea prison in the city of Tipaza, outside the capital, according to Bendjama. CPJ was unable to determine the status of Rahmani’s health in prison.
In September 2021, CPJ emailed Ennahar TV and the Algerian Ministries of Interior and Justice for comment on Rahmani’s case but received no responses.