Algerian journalist Rabah Kareche, who reported on a protest movement by the Tuareg minority, was sentenced Thursday to serve eight months behind bars, his newspaper Liberte said.
It said a court in the southern town of Tamanrasset handed Kareche, who was arrested in April, a one-year term with four months suspended. Taking into account time served, he has four months left in prison.
He had been charged with “spreading false information liable to damage public order” and was accused of posting reports that could trigger “segregation and hatred within society.”
Rights group Amnesty International denounced the sentence as a new blow to freedom of the press in Algeria, and called for Kareche’s release.
Kareche was arrested after reporting that the Tuareg, a Berber minority who have long complained of economic and social marginalisation, had protested over “expropriation” of their historical lands.
His detention triggered protests from fellow journalists, especially after President Abdelmadjid Tebboune described Kareche as an “arsonist” in an interview before his sentencing.
To the dismay of rights and media freedom groups, the government last year criminalized the dissemination of “false news” that “harms national unity.”
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly accused Algerian authorities of resorting to criminal prosecutions against journalists and others using vaguely worded offences in the penal code.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Algeria 146th out of 180 countries and territories in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index.