ARTICLE 19 calls on the Algerian authorities to immediately release journalist Ihsane El Kadi and drop all arbitrary charges against him – to protect freedom of expression and to demonstrate respect for independent media in Algeria.
Ihsane El Kadi, the director of Interface Media, the parent company of Radio M and Maghreb Emergent, could face up to five years in prison, a sentence that is expected to be confirmed at a hearing scheduled for 2 April 2023. On 26 March, the prosecutor of the Algerian court of Sidi M’hamed requested a five-year prison sentence against the journalist, with a fine of 700,000 Algerian dinars (about 4,800 euros), in addition to preventing him from exercising his professional activity and ‘dismissal and exclusion from public service’ for a period of five years.
Update: On 2 April, El Kadi was handed down a five-year sentence.
Responding to the sentence, Saloua Ghazouani, ARTICLE 19’s Director for Middle East and North Africa said: ‘Ihsane el Kadi is a symbol for independent journalism in Algeria . Silencing him is not only a violation of his rights, it is an act of intimidation against Algeria’s media freedom.’
The prosecutor also called for Interface Media to face legal punishment, ordering the confiscation of the institution’s funds and property, the closure of the accounts into which its funds were deposited, the imposition of a fine of 10 million Algerian dinars (more than 68,000 euros), and the confiscation of equipment and devices used to operate the media company’s audiovisual service. The authorities say Interface Media delivered this service without a licence, according to the charge brought against it under Article 107 of the Audiovisual Law.[mfn]Radio M ” Sidi M’hamed Court: Five years in prison for journalist Ihsan Al Kadi “. Available : https://radio-m.net/%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%83%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%AF%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%B3-%D8%AE%D9%85%D8%B3-%D8%B3%D9%86%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%AD%D8%A8%D8%B3%D8%A7/[/mfn]
El Kadi was arrested on 22 December 2022 and has been remanded in custody since 29 December under Articles 95 and 95 bis of the Penal Code on suspicion of ‘receiving money and privileges from persons and organisations in the country and abroad in order to engage in activities that compromise the security and stability of the state’.
However, the accusation that he received foreign funding is unfounded; the investigation has not revealed any foreign funding, except for the transfer of £25,000 by Ihsan El Kadi’s London-based daughter to Interface Media, of which she is a shareholder. ARTICLE 19 fears that Ihsan El Kadi is being targeted because of his political views and due to the editorial independence of the two media outlets he runs. The journalist’s lawyers told the media that Ihsane El Kadi’s imprisonment is the Algerian authorities’ response to an article he published about President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s plan for a second mandate in 2024 and about the military institution’s position on the matter, as well as a tweet he posted about the president’s claim that he had recovered 20 billion Algerian dollars of funds looted under President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s regime, in which he questioned the validity of the figure he cited.[mfn]Al-Quds Al-Arabi “Algeria: 5 years in prison for journalist Ihsane Al Kadi”. Available on : https://www.alquds.co.uk/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%B3-5-%D8%B3%D9%86%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%B3%D8%AC%D9%86%D8%A7-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%B5%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%A5%D8%AD%D8%B3/ [/mfn]
These decisions pose a serious danger to the independence of the Algerian media and clearly violate freedom of the press guarantees provided in the Algerian constitution. The decisions also violate international standards that stipulate that the work of journalists should not be subject to the penal code. For these reasons, ARTICLE 19 urges the Algerian justice system to play its part in protecting freedom of expression and the press by dropping the charges against journalist Ihsane El Kadi, releasing him immediately and ensuring Radio M and Maghreb Emergent are able to continue their vital work as independent media outlets.