International human rights experts and Algerian organizations have called for releasing journalist Khaled Drareni who received a two-year prison term at his appeal hearing on Tuesday.
The Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council published a report on Wednesday citing statements by independent experts demanding Algerian authorities to reverse the sentence against the correspondent at media watchdog Reporters without Borders (RSF).
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this two-year prison sentence imposed on a journalist who was simply doing his job and call on the Algerian authorities to reverse it and set Drareni free,” the experts said.
They stressed that Drareni has become “a symbol of press freedom in the North African country.”
Drerano, 40, an editor at the Casbah Tribune news site and correspondent for French-language channel TV5 Monde, had been sentenced in August to three years in prison for covering coverage Algeria's anti-government protests.
The journalist was arrested on March 29 on charges of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “endangering national unity” after covering demonstrations by the “Hirak” protest movement.
Although the reduced two-year sentence was confirmed on Sep.15, experts stressed that “it is still grossly inappropriate because the charges brought against him are a blatant violation of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and of association.”
He had earlier been summoned by the country’s security apparatus, which warned him over posts published on his official Twitter account, in which he defended the Hirak’s demand for regime change.
They also rejected the opposition statements published on his Facebook account, as well as the reports submitted to the RSF on “harassment” of journalists and the shutdown of news websites due to their anti-regime rhetoric.
The eight signatories included that of Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, along with members of the UN working group on arbitrary detention Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), Jose Guevara Bermúdez, Seong-Phil Hong and Setondji Adjovi.
They said they were alarmed that the Algerian authorities have been increasingly using national security laws to prosecute people who are exercising their rights.
“Drareni and all the others currently in prison or awaiting trial simply for doing their job and defending human rights must be immediately released and protected,” they stressed.