MANAGING OF DAILY "LE MATIN" SENTENCED
TO TWO YEARS IN PRISON
RSF is deeply shocked by the imprisonment of Mohammed Benchicou, managing editor of the daily "Le Matin", following the 14 June 2004 verdict sentencing him to two years in prison for a "violation of foreign exchange controls". The organisation vigorously denounces the dangerous escalation of repression of Algeria's private press since the presidential election.
"We are stunned by the severity of the sentence against Benchicou. The violation of foreign exchange controls is a pretext to silence this journalist, but also a warning to all those who dared to criticise the government during the presidential campaign. The imprisonment of Hafnaoui Ghoul on 24 May, who denounced local officials' misuse of public funds, and that of Benchicou, whose newspaper did not hesitate to bring to light serious political dysfunctions, illustrate the government's fierce repression of a segment of the press. President Bouteflika, who a few months ago compared journalists to 'terrorists' and 'mercenaries with pens', is now pursuing his dangerous logic of repression of freedom of expression," said RSF.
On 14 June, Benchicou was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of 20 million dinars (approx. US$280,000; 230,000 euros). Placed under a committal order, he was taken to El-Harrach prison in suburban Algiers as soon as the verdict was delivered. On 23 August 2003, upon his return from France, Benchicou was found to be in possession of a large sum of money in payment orders. The finance minister lodged a complaint for "violation of rules governing foreign exchange and the movement of capital", after which Benchicou was placed under formal investigation. Despite the various warnings directed at Benchicou, "Le Matin" did not alter its editorial line, most notably during the presidential campaign. In February 2004, Benchicou published a pamphlet entitled, "Bouteflika, an Algerian imposture".
In Algeria, journalists are already mobilised and a national committee has been created to demand the release of Benchicou and Ghoul.
Pour tout renseignement complémentaire, veuillez contacter Agnès Devictor, RSF, 5, rue Geoffroy Marie, Paris 75009, France, tél: +33 1 44 83 84 84,
téléc: +33 1 45 23 11 51, téléc: +33 1 45 23 11 51, courrier électronique: email@example.com, Internet: http://www.rsf.org/