Rights groups urge release of Algerian journalist

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Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), fellow journalists, and rights groups called Thursday for Algerian authorities to release detained journalist Khaled Drareni.

The head of the Casbah Tribune website and correspondent for RSF and French-language television channel TV5Monde, Drareni has become a symbol of the fight for press freedom in the North African country.

He was arrested in March while covering an anti-government protest and accused of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and undermining the territorial integrity of the nation.

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His trial is expected to start on August 3. RSF says he could face 10 years in prison.

“Khaled Drareni must be released, out of loyalty to the ideals of Algerian independence,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire and Pierre Audin, the son of anti-colonial activist Maurice Audin, wrote in an opinion piece published in French daily Le Monde.

Pierre Audin is also a member of an international support committee for Drareni whose creation RSF announced Thursday.

The committee includes Algerian and foreign journalists, and groups including Human Rights Watch.

“Algerian independence... for which the Algerian people fought hard, aimed to liberate the country from colonial domination based in particular on the control of information,” Deloire and Audin wrote.

“Remaining faithful to the fight for emancipation clearly presupposes respecting freedom of expression, in particular freedom of the press.”

Arrests of journalists have increased in recent months in the North African country.

The latest were a correspondent and a cameraman who have worked with France 24 and were released Wednesday after being arrested a day earlier.

Algeria ranks 146th on RSF's 180-country World Press Freedom Index.

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