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Judicial authorities unearth more libel cases against national daily

December 30, 2008

Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the judicial harassment of the French-language daily Al-Watan that has continued since its libel conviction on 23 December.

"There is no doubt that the prosecutions being brought against Al-Watan are purely political in nature," Reporters Without Borders said. "We are disappointed that judges are giving serious consideration to defamation suits that were filed with the sole aim of harming the newspaper. The only just response would be to dismiss them."

Al-Watan editor Omar Belhouchet was summoned before a court in the Algiers district of Sidi M′hammed on 28 December in connection with three libel actions dating back several years. Two were brought by the now deceased CEO of the national airline, Air Algérie, over two articles, one of which was about fare increases. The third was brought by the police in Bouira (110 km southeast of Algiers) in 2002 about a report the previous year referring to the killing of more than 100 protesters by the police.

The first two cases were adjourned until 11 January. The third was adjourned until 22 January.

Belhouchet and one of his reporters, Salima Tlemçani, were sentenced on 23 December to three months in prison and a fine of 50,000 dinars (500 euros) for allegedly libelling a faith healer in a 2004 article. They remain free pending the outcome of their appeal.

For more information contact:
Reporters Without Borders

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