Newsletter No 23 28 March 2006
Press Freedom:
Latest Press Freedom News From the Region

In Algeria, Kamel Bousaad and Berkane Bouderbala, the editors of the weeklies Errissala and Essafir, were released on 15 March. They had spent over a month in prison for reprinting three of the controversial Mohammed cartoons.

They had published the cartoons in 2 February, which led to an immediate complaint by the Information Ministry to the prosecutor general. Bousaad was arrested on 8 February and Bouderbala three days later. They face up to five years of prison for offending the prophet and denigrating Islam.

In Iraq, Ali Abdallah Fayad, journalist for Al Safeer newspaper, was kidnapped near Baghdad on 21 March. He is the fourth journalist to be kidnapped in 2006 after the American freelance Jill Carroll and the Iraqis Reim Zeid and Marwan Khazaal who are still held hostages.

According to reports, Fayad was abducted by the Baath Party Brigade, that has demanded a 20 million Euro ransom and the release of three of its members held by the Iraqi authorities.

Al Safeer, a privately owned tri-weekly newspaper, had two of its journalists murdered in September 2005.

Also in Iraq, CBS cameraman, Abdul Ameer Younis will be judged by an Iraqi court on 5 April after the adjournment of his initial appearance.

Younis has been held by the US forces in Abu Grhaib prison since April 2005 without having been formally charged. He was arrested while filming clashes between Iraqi insurgents and the US Army in the northern city of Mosul. According to the CBS, US authorities have indicated that the journalist could have instigated a crowd before his arrest.

US Major General John Gardner said on 24 March in Baghdad said that the US troops in Iraq have established a new mechanism to review cases of detained journalists within 36 hours.

In Yemen, a court postponed on 22 March the lawsuits against the Editor-in-Chief of the Yemen Observer English-language daily, Mohamed Al Asaadi, for publishing the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

The trial was adjourned fir three weeks to let the Press Attorney prepare his response to Al Asaadi’s refutation of the claims. Al Asaadi was arrested on 22 February and accused of “offending the religious feeling of the people.” Three other journalists, Abdul Karim Sabra, Editor-in-Chief of Al Hurriya weekly, and Yehiya al-Abed, a journalist for the paper, and Kamal al-Aalafi, editor-in-chief of the Arabic-language Al Rai Al Aam, are also waiting to appear in court also for the publishing of the cartoons.

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