Dozens of Algerian journalists from public and private media outlets rallied in front of the press syndicate in Algiers on Monday, calling for the release of detained journalist Khaled Drareni and protesting against the authorities' harassment of the media and the judicial and security persecution of journalists.
The rally was held as the country gears up to mark National Press Day on October 22.
Drareni, a correspondent for Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and French TV5, was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of "inciting an unarmed gathering" and "endangering national unity".
The protesters chanted in support of Drareni and called for the establishment of a “civil, non-military state”, one of the most important demands of the Hirak protest movement that toppled the regime of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika last year.
They denounced accusations by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune claiming Drareni “gave information to the French embassy in Algeria.” However, this issue was not mentioned in his judicial file, which is still under appeal at the Supreme Court.
Minister of Justice, Belkacem Zeghmati, had previously stated that Drareni is being prosecuted in a case that has nothing to do with his journalistic activity. His lawyers refute the claims.
Drareni was arrested in March while photographing the anti-government protests. He was later summoned for interrogation by the security forces, where he was questioned about the photos and news he published about the popular demonstrations.
Another journalist, Abdelkrim Zeghileche, head of a web-based independent radio station, Radio-Sarbacane, had been sentenced to prison for insulting the president.
The main charges against him were "endangering national unity" and “insulting the head of the state” in a Facebook post, where he called for creating a new political party.
Each year, the government celebrates National Press Day, which was set by Bouteflika.
During the celebration, the “President of the Republic's Award for Professional Journalist" is given for the best journalistic work based on the topics set by the Ministry of Information.
Independent media outlets are known to boycott the event, as opposed to state media that participates heavily every year.