Algeria releases the journalist Khaled Dhararni, the situation of press freedom in Arab countries
On Friday evening, Algerian authorities released journalist Khaled Dhararni, who had turned into a symbol of the fight for press freedom in Algeria, a day after the announcement of presidential pardon for dozens of prisoners of conscience, according to his lawyer. The Algerian Ministry of Justice said in a statement last night that “33 people have been released”, indicating that procedures are continuing for the rest of the detainees.”He is free,” said Abdulghani Badi, defense attorney for French-language TV correspondent 5 Monde and Reporters Without Borders, adding that the release was temporary.
Images and videos circulated by activists on social media showed detainees meeting with their relatives in different regions, including the Qlaia region, west of Algiers, where families and journalists awaited the day of their release. Drareni is awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision, which is expected to be issued on February 25, on the appeal in cassation for the sentence previously issued against him.The National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees also confirmed the release of political activist Rachid Nekkaz from El Obeid Sidi Sheikh prison in El Bayadh state.
As of December 2020, there are 89 journalists jailed in 10 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the international Committee to protect journalists (CPJ). Most reporters are held on anti-state and false news charges; many are held without charge. In Turkey, thousands of imprisoned journalists are charged but not sentenced, detained for months or years awaiting trial.
Authorities use imprisonment as a tactic to prevent or silence reporting on political issues and human rights violations, and to muzzle dissenting opinions. They also use imprisonment to quash coverage of unrest: in Egypt, Bahrain, and Syria journalists have been arrested while documenting uprisings or illegal activities, including terrorism. In North Africa, Tunisia is the first country in Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom ranking. The Presidency of the Republic guarantees freedom of expression, facilitating the work of local and foreign media.
Turkey has one of the world’s highest numbers of journalists in prison and ranks 154th out of 180 countries for media freedom according to Reporters Without Borders.Olay TV, a private Turkish TV station that broadcasts opposition views, was recently pressed into shutting down after just 26 days, leaving 160 people without jobs.According to a new survey, “Dimensions of Polarization in Turkey (2020),” conducted by Istanbul Bilgi University and the German Marshall Fund of the United States, only one-fifth of Turkish citizens trust media outlets. More than 90 percent of Turkey’s mainstream media is now controlled by conglomerates with close links to the government.
Last month, an Istanbul court sentenced Can Dundar, an exiled journalist living in Germany, to 18 years and nine months in prison over espionage charges, and eight years and nine months for aiding a terrorist organization without being a member.In November 2019, Erdogan announced programs to reform Turkey’s legal system to improve human rights. But no substantial steps have so far been taken to increase freedom of expression in the communications.