Algerian court awards six-month suspended sentence to journalist Khaled Drareni

The independent journalist was arrested in March 2020 and charged with various serious offenses while he was covering the anti-establishment Hirak protests in Algeria

March 07, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Khaled Drareni Algeria
Journalist Khaled Drareni. (Photo: African Insider)

On Thursday, March 3, Algerian journalist and political activist Khaled Drareni, who in 2020 was sentenced to three years in prison on politically motivated charges before it was reduced to a two-year prison term, once again had his sentence reduced on appeal. He has now been awarded a six-month suspended sentence. According to information obtained from Algerian prisoners’ advocacy group National Commission for Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), Drareni, who spent more than 11 months in prison while awaiting trial, was given the reduced sentence in the new trial ordered by the Algerian supreme court. Drareni was fined 50,000 Algerian dinars, the fine amount from his previous conviction. Reports stated that the prosecution at the new trial requested a much harsher sentence of two years for Drareni.

Drareni was arrested on March 29, 2020 and subsequently charged with “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “endangering national unity” after he criticized president Tebboune and the government on social media. He was arrested while covering the anti-government Hirak movement demonstrations taking place every week on Friday. Drareni had expressed solidarity with the protesters and spread awareness about the movement and its demands. The supreme court in March last year had overturned Drareni’s conviction by lower courts and ordered a retrial. Just a month earlier, Drareni was pardoned by Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune. 

A day before the court’s decision, Drareni tweeted, “Thank you for your continued support. Whatever the judgment, I will continue to do my work independently.” Drareni is well-known in Algeria as the founder of the independent Casbah Tribune and for his role as a correspondent for Reporters Without Borders and French-language channel TV5 Monde.

Drareni’s supporters, fellow journalists, and human rights groups have consistently denounced the charges against him and called them baseless. Amnesty International termed his prosecution ‘a travesty’ and press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders called the charges ‘absurd’ and ‘arbitrary,’ demanding that they be immediately dropped. 

Drareni has repeatedly stated that he was only fulfilling his duty as a journalist to keep the country’s citizens informed and was not involved in any crime. Following his arrest and during his trial, journalists, rights activists and other progressive sections organized a global campaign of protest vigils and marches demanding his release along with that of others who have been arbitrarily detained and persecuted.

The current regime in Algeria has for the last three years engaged in a systematic campaign of crackdown and persecution against the popular Hirak movement and its supporters. The Hirak protests successfully overthrew ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika after decades of authoritarian rule. The movement later continued demanding more political and socio-economic reforms as many in the old guard under the previous regime remained in power and influenced policy and administration. As part of its campaign of repression, the government has arrested several journalists and slapped them with malicious charges to prevent them from reporting on developments in the country. According to the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), several of these journalists are still being held in detention, either awaiting trial or after their conviction in what many have deemed as ‘unfair’ sham trials.

× To Subscribe