Algeria - Three journalists face prison in legal tussle over cartoon

    MONTREAL, June 5 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders today noted
with concern an upsurge in legal proceedings against members of the media as
the trial of three journalists on the daily Liberté ended with the state
prosecutor making an outrageous call for jail sentences against them.
    The prosecutor on 1st June called for two months imprisonment for editor,
Ali Ouafak, managing editor, Farid Alilat, and cartoonist Ali Dilem for
"defamation" under Article 146 of the press law which provides for prison
sentences for insulting state bodies.
    The offending cartoon, published on 29 July 2004, of retired Chief of
Staff of the Algerian Army, General Mohamed Lamari, prompted a complaint from
the defence ministry to the Sidi M'hammed correctional court in Algiers. The
court is set to deliver its verdict on 15 June.
    "With days to go before sentence in this case, we appeal to the justice
system to show restraint and discernment. Since the Algerian authorities
always turn a deaf ear to calls to amend the draconian law on the press, we
hope that the judges will not serve any political interests by insisting on
handing down harsh sentences to the Liberté journalists" the worldwide press
freedom organisation said.
    "Ali Dilem's cartoons, which are widely appreciated outside Algeria,
should be seen for what they are, journalistic sketches that justify a degree
of mockery", it added.
    Dilem is already under a suspended prison sentence and could end up
behind bars if he was sentenced again. He has had a total of more than
20 legal cases brought against him.
    Lawyer for Liberté, Khaled Burayu, told Reporters Without Borders that he
had urged the court to show tolerance over the cartoons. "We would like
Algerian jurisprudence to take a lead from European jurisprudence which
provides for moderation. The cartoonist did not act in bad faith," he added.
    Two journalists on the daily al-Watan were sentenced to two months in
prison for defamation in March this year in a suit brought by the prefect of
the eastern region of Jijel. Other Algerian journalists have regularly been
brought before the court in a number of similar cases.

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)

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