in Algeria have set up a committee to press for the
release of colleagues jailed recently in what many of
them see as a government campaign to silence dissenting
voices. The "Committee for the Liberation of Hafnaoui
Ghoul and Mohamed Benchicou" was formed by representatives
of several leading Algerian newspapers, in addition
to the Union of Algerian Journalists and a national
editor of Le
newspaper, was imprisoned for two years and fined 20m
Algerian dinars (about US$280,000) on 14 June for financial
irregularities. Hafnaoui Ghoul, a correspondent and
human rights activist, earlier received a two-month
prison sentence for the defamation of a retired general.
The editor of another leading daily, El-Khabar, Ali Djerri,
was given a two-month sentence in absentia for defamation
on 20 June.
and Ghoul" demands a banner displayed on many of
the newspapers' web sites. El Watan, Le Soir d'Algerie, Le Matin and Liberte all give front-page
coverage to a news conference held by the committee
in Paris. Organised by the international rights organisation
Reporters Without Borders, the conference was held to
draw attention to what is seen as the harrassment of
the press in Algeria. The jailing of Mr Ghoul and Mr
Benchicou, they argued, set a dangerous precedent. Reacting
to its editor's imprisonment, Le Matin says the charges
against him were merely "fallacious pretexts"
brought about "to silence an anti-establishment
Benchicou is in reality paying for the robust tone of
his newspaper," it argues. El Watan says lawyers
"fought valiently" to show that Mr Benchicou
was "the victim of a 'political-judicial farce'".
"We must take our hats off to the shadowy judges
for cleverly succeeding in fabricating a made-to-measure
violation to convict Benchicou for a criminal offence,"
in the Arabic-language daily El Khabar writes that
"journalists have been caught red-handed committing
the crime of writing". Government officials, it
says, insist that there is no retreat from the principle
of the freedom of the press. "This is what they
used to tell us about socialism," the paper comments.
"Journalists are being oppressed and tried, not
for misdemeanours and felonies punishable by law, but
rather because they are journalists," it goes on.
"We are sure that, as long as we write, criticise
and investigate, we will be criminals". Several
papers comment that attacks on journalists are not a
new phenomenon. But, says Liberte, journalists will not give
up. "Even if the fight is unequal," it says,
"journalists - confident of the cause that they
are defending - will never throw in the towel."
BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham
in southern England, selects and translates information
from radio, television, press, news agencies and the
Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.