Newsletter No 15 24 January 2006
Press Freedom:
Latest Press Freedom News From the Region

» In Algeria, Bashir El Arabi, a journalist for El Khabar newspaper, was arrested and detained on 21 January after an warrant of arrest against him was issued that same day. A court had found him guilty of libel on 29 September and sentenced him to a month of firm prison.

The charges related to an article that appeared in the newspaper about a corruption case involving the governor of the Naama region and a charity association. According to the newspaper, Al Arabi had presented to the court documents supporting the story.

El Khabar, the leading Arabic-speaking daily in Algeria, has called to amend the laws punishing journalistic cases with jail terms.

» In Iraq, The US-army has released Samir Mohammed Noor, a freelance cameraman for Reuters, who was arrested in May and held in prison without charges, the pan-Arab daily Asharq Alawsat reported. At least one other Iraqi journalist remains imprisoned in Iraq without having been formally charged: Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, cameraman working for CBS News, who was arrested in April 2005.

International press freedom organizations have expressed several times their concern over the unjustified long-term arrests of journalists carried out by the American forces

» In Lybia, On 12 January, cyber-dissident Abdel Razak Al Mansouri marked the first year of an 18-month prison sentence for posting articles on the internet criticizing President Muammar Al Gaddafi.

Al Mansouri was arrested on 12 January 2005 and transferred to a prison in Tripoli in the same day. He was sentenced in October 2005. The journalist has reportedly not been allowed to see his family since then.

The tribunal found him guilty of unauthorized possession of a pistol but, according to press freedom organizations, the real reason for his conviction are the articles he wrote for, a Libyan website based in London. He criticized human rights abuses in the country.

» In Spain, the High Constitutional Court agreed on 21 January to re-examine the case against Al-Jazeera reporter Tayseer Alluni.

The court said that there were enough reasons to accept an appeal Alluni’s lawyers had presented earlier this month.

The Spanish High Court had condemned Alluni on September 2005 to seven years of prison for collaboration with Al Qaeda. The same court acquitted him of being a member of the terrorist organization. He was sentenced along with other 18 persons in what was the largest trial in Europe against Al Qaeda.

Alluni’s lawyers will be now able to ask for his release due to health reasons. The Al Jazeera journalist suffers from heart and back problems. Up until now, prison authorities have refused to transfer Alluni to a hospital. He has been treated by the prison doctors.

Alluni obtained worldwide recognition after interviewing Ousama Ben Laden in 1998 and covering the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

» In Tunis, weekly newspapers Al Mawqif and Akhbar al Joumhouria were reportedly seized from newsstands on 20 January.

Both publications have seen all their issues seized from newsstands without receiving any explanation from authorities.

This measure comes a few days after the repeal of the articles of the Press Law obliging publications to present the issues before publishing. However, the article No 73 allows the Ministry of Interior to seize any publication that could threaten the law and order.

» In Yemen, Women Journalists Without Constraints (WJWC) has published its first report on Press Freedom in the country.

The organization considers that “2005 has been a black year for journalism in Yemen.” It has reported more than 50 cases of attacks and unfair court sentences against newspapers and writers.

“What marks 2005 off is that press organizations were subjected to many violation without any protection for them. Some press organizations were closed and others occupied or cloned, websites were hacked, journalists kidnapped, assaulted, imprisoned and threatened of killing, and kidnapping amid an official silence over these violations,” the report says.

WJWC (former Women Journalists Without Borders) is a non-government organization concerned with defending the freedom of press and women rights. It also works on training and qualifying female journalists in Yemen. Ms. Tawakul Karman, head of WJWC, said to Yemen Times that the name has been changed because it had been cloned and given to an imaginary organization by the government.

Sources for the alerts:
Arab Press Freedom Watch (AFPW), London
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), New York
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Brussels, Belgium
International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), Canada
International Press Institute (IPI), Vienna, Austria
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), France