GENEVA – The Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties expresses its concern over continuing repression and harassment of Algerian journalists while doing their jobs, and condemns the government’s ongoing arrest of a number of journalists and photographers while covering the demonstrations of the popular movement, the last of whom was the journalist Kenza Khato, who was subjected to a violent arrest last Friday. She has been kept in pretrial detention for more than 48 hours, without substantive grounds.
Kenza Khatou, working on the “Radio M” online website, was arrested in a humiliating manner on Friday, May 14, 2021, at around 1:30 p.m., while covering the “Hirak” demonstration in Algiers. About 12 other journalists were released after they were arrested, while journalist Kenza Khattou had her pretrial detention extended, and she will appear today before the public prosecutor at the Sidi Mohamed court in Algiers, despite the fact that her pretrial detention in police headquarters is inconsistent with Article 51 ( Amended) of the Algerian Criminal Procedure Code.
The video that documented the moment the journalist was arrested and dragged towards the police car and then to the police station shows the extent of the harsh arrest and the severe humiliation she was subjected to, even though she was just performing her journalistic duty.
According to what was published by “Radio M”, quoting the journalist’s lawyer, and as a result of the violent arrest, Kanza stepped scratches on various parts of the body and broke her glasses during her arrest, and she was shown to the doctor in the presence of a police officer, and she was forced to put her fingerprints on the hearing report. The scene of arrest reflects the brutality of the repression and intimidation practiced by the authority against journalists while performing their duties and the obstruction of journalistic work and the media message they are striving for.
Algeria recently witnessed an escalation in arrests against journalists. In Friday’s demonstrations, 116 from the popular movement, corresponding to May 8, 2021, a number of journalists were arrested, including journalist Khaled Dararni, and then released after five hours of detention and interrogation, while the journalist Rabah Karsh is still in custody after his arrest nearly a month ago for his coverage of demonstrations in the south of the country, where he was accused of spreading false news that would undermine public order and security.
The Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties believes that arresting journalists and other media workers and detaining them for prolonged periods is a humiliating assault on the journalism aimed at silencing the voice of the fourth authority in society and restricting freedom of opinion and expression in Algeria.
GCRL calls on the Algerian authorities to immediately release the journalist Kenza Khattou and the rest of the imprisoned journalists, put an end to the campaign of repression and arrests against them while exercising their duties, and to stop criminalizing the press because journalists’ ultimate goal is to serve the truth while covering the demonstrations directly from their source which is a noble mission ensuring the citizen’s right to information and the right to freedom expression that falls within the framework of basic human rights.