Algeria: Cartoonist, Newspaper Publisher And Editor Face Possible Prison Sentences in Defamation Case Over Cartoon of Former Army Chief

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The World Association of Newspapers, which is currently holding its 61st World Newspaper Congress and 15th World Editors Forum in Göteborg, Sweden, strongly condemns the continuing legal harassment exerted against the renowned Algerian cartoonist Ali Dilem.

In the latest defamation case brought against Dilem by the Defence Ministry, the State Prosecutor requested on 1st June a two-month prison sentence against the cartoonist, but also against the publisher of the daily newspaper Liberté, Ali Ouafak, and its managing editor, Farid Alilat.

The humoristic cartoon that triggered the criminal charges portrayed Lt. Gen. Mohamed Lamari as he retired from his position of Chief of Staff of the Algerian army. It was published by Liberté in July 2004.

This is the third trial faced by Dilem since the beginning of 2008. He received a six-month suspended sentence in one instance while the other case is currently being appealed. Since he started his career 19 years ago, Dilem was prosecuted more than 50 times, mainly by the Presidential Office and the military.

In 2001, amendments known as the "Dilem amendments" were made to the Information Code and the Penal Code to prohibit the publication of material that offends the president, the parliament, the courts, or the army, and to increase the criminal sanctions against publishers, journalists or cartoonists for any violation.

Ali Dilem was among the speakers at WAN's annual press freedom round table that this year addressed and defended the right of the press to publish content that might offend, shock and disturb.

WAN and the world's press currently meeting in Sweden call on the Algerian authorities to halt the harassment campaign against Dilem and to ensure that all criminal charges against him and his colleagues are dropped.

Moreover, WAN calls on the authorities to take all necessary steps to put an end to the intimidation and repression of the independent press in Algeria and to fully respect international standards of freedom of expression.

The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom and the professional and business interests of newspapers world-wide. Representing 18,000 newspapers, its membership includes 77 national newspaper associations, newspaper companies and individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups.