Noted Thinkers, Writers And Filmmakers Call On Algeria To Free Jailed Journalist Seen As Independent

Algerian Journalist Ihsane El Kadi

PARIS (AP) — Ten noted thinkers, writers and filmmakers, including director Ken Loach and Nobel literature laureate Annie Ernaux, signed an open letter published Tuesday, calling on the president of Algeria to free a jailed journalist they said was punished for refusing to bow to the government line.

In the letter to President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, published in the French daily Le Monde, the luminaries said that prominent journalist Ihsane El Kadi was in prison “because he refuses to submit to the pressures of those who govern the country and wanted to make him a counterfeit journalist.”

An Algiers court sentenced the 64-year-old El Kadi on April 2 to five years in prison with two years suspended after his conviction on charges of receiving foreign funding for his two media outlets, Radio M and the online news site Maghreb Emergent.

The outspoken El Kadi is widely considered a rare independent voice within the press, and his outlets the lone spaces to defy a tightening noose around press freedom in Algeria. His media outlets were ordered shut down.

El Kadi was initially detained at his home in December and has remained jailed since then.

The signatories of the exceptionally bold letter appealed for El Kadi’s freedom by referring to the North African country’s brutal war with France for independence, won in 1962 and today the near-sacred basis on which Algeria is built.

“More than a country, Algeria is an idea. A stubborn idea of liberation ... It is the proof that victory over injustice is possible,” the letter said.

“Today, this great country is closing like a redoubtable trap on political opponents and citizens who dare dream of a veritable state of law.”

Among others signing the letter were Noam Chomsky and Indian writer Arundhati Roy.

An earlier appeal by Reporters Without Borders, made during a ceremony on International Press Day, failed. Tebboune simply reminded a representative who gave him a letter that “El Kadi Ihasane is not jailed as a journalist, but as the head of a press group financed with foreign funds.”