For Immediate Release
July 12 1996
(212) 465-1004 x105
CPJ Condemns Arrest Of Newspaper Cartoonist
Watchdog Group Calls for End to Government Censorship
NEW YORK--The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today urged the Algerian government to release an imprisoned political cartoonist and lift the suspension of his newspaper. And CPJ reiterated its call on the government to rescind its imposition of prior censorship on all independent reporting on security matters.
Chawki Amari, a cartoonist with the independent, French-language daily La Tribune, was arrested at his home in Algiers on the morning of July 4. He is charged with desecrating a national emblem for drawing a cartoon, published on July 1, which depicted the Algerian flag in a satiric manner. If convicted of this offense, Amari could be sentenced to up to ten years in prison. On July 10, an examining magistrate denied Amari's request for bail. He is being held at Serkadji prison
On July 3, La Tribune's offices were sealed and Kheireddine Ameyar, its publisher, and Baya Gacemi, the editor in chief, were placed under judicial supervision and ordered to appear before the court twice a week.
Algerian editors and journalists have called a newspaper strike for Monday, July 15, to demand Amari's release and the reopening of La Tribune.
"We support our Algerian colleagues' demands," said William A. Orme, Jr., CPJ's executive director. "The Algerian government's censorship policies and the continuing terrorist campaign against journalists put the press in an untenable position. Journalists who face a constant threat of assassination by terrorists are put even more at risk by being forced to print government propaganda as news."
Since May 1993, 59 journalists have been murdered in Algeria. This is the most lethal assassination campaign against the press documented by CPJ in the last ten years. The shadowy Armed Islamic Group (GIA) has claimed responsibility for the bulk of journalists' slayings in Algeria.
Since the army interrupted the electoral process in January 1992 to prevent a victory by the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in parliamentary election, dozens of independent journalists have been dragged to court, newspapers have been suspended, and the state's monopoly on printing has been used to intimidate publishers.
CPJ is a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom and journalists' rights throughout the world.
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