Algeria President Tebboune meets prominent journalists amid press freedom clampdown
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune met a number of critical prominent journalists at an official ceremony held to mark World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday, amid a crackdown on media in the country.
Some of the journalists had been imprisoned by authorities for their work, while others were affiliated with news websites which had been previously blocked in Algeria, according to The New Arab’s Arabic sister site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
The meeting commemorating World Press Freedom Day took place despite Algeria's poor track record on press liberties, which includes a crackdown on journalists who reported on the 2019 Hirak protests.
Among the attendees was prominent journalist Khaled Drareni, who was arrested and imprisoned for two years in 2020 for covering these demonstrations in Algeria.
Drareni was imprisoned for filming police attacking demonstrators in the capital Algiers on charges officially named as "inciting an illegal assembly" and "endangering national unity".
The protests, which began in February 2019, erupted after then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision to run for a fifth presidential term, as well state corruption and unemployment.
Drareni, whose sentence was reduced following an appeal, is also the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) representative in North Africa.
The prominent journalist reportedly asked Tebboune to free imprisoned reporter Ihsane El-Kadi, who was given a five-year sentence on charges of "foreign financing for his business" in March.
An Algiers court also ordered the closure of the publishing house behind El-Kadi’s outlets, as well as a hefty 10 million dinar fine ($73,500).
El-Kadi, who headed the radio station Radio M and the website Maghreb Emergent, was subjected to multiple instances of harassment over the past three years.
In a letter handed to the Algerian leader, Drareni also included demands for lifting restrictions on the North African country's journalists.
En ma qualité de Représentant de Reporters sans frontières (RSF) en Afrique du Nord, je serai porteur aujourd’hui d’une lettre officielle de mon organisation au Président de la république, dans laquelle nous appelerons à la levée des restrictions, à l'arrêt des atteintes et à la… pic.twitter.com/TfHJ9MZhQx— Khaled Drareni (@khaleddrareni) May 3, 2023
Drareni said on his Twitter account that the meeting with Tebboune was an opportunity to "bring forth the cause of journalists imprisoned" by the Algeria state.
Algeria, however, is among the world's worst countries for press freedoms, ranked 136th out of 180 countries in a 2023 RSF report.
Press liberties deteriorated significantly over the years, as many journalists were harassed, detained and jailed for reporting on the widespread Hirak demonstrations.