Reporters Without Borders on Monday stepped up its call for Algerian authorities to ban the use of prison sentences in libel cases and urged an end to anti-press laws in the criminal code.
At a news conference at its Paris headquarters, the group called for the release of Mohamed Benchicou, the prominent editor of Le Matin daily, a day before the one-year mark in his prison term.
He is serving a sentence for violating a law governing the transfer of money, viewed by many international press advocates as a trumped-up charge.
The group also criticised two court verdicts last month against a former editor of Liberte newspaper, who was convicted in absentia and fined, and two journalists from another daily, Le Soir d’Algerie.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
“There has not been such a harsh crackdown on the press for years,” the group said in a statement. “The number of independent news outlets is shrinking fast and press freedom is now in great danger in Algeria.”
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, a frequent target of Algeria’s vibrant newspapers, last month urged journalists to respect ethics and “refuse that their talents be manipulated in a way that harms Algeria”.
He faulted “political, economic, financial and criminal interest groups that push journalists to contravene the law and attack people” in an address to reporters.