Algeria – Al-Khabar Media Group challenged a judge’s verdict on sending each of the group’s media director, producer and legal manager -responsible for licensing TV shows at the Ministry of Culture- to jail. The three have been sentenced for continuing to authorize broadcasting two legally suspended programs, one of which revolves around political satire. The group’s appeal was presented at the Judicial Council by Khabar group’s legal representatives.
Lawyer Khaled Borghol, the group’s advocate, argued against holding director Mehdi Benaissa, producer Riad Hartouf, and legal manager Mounia Nadjai in custody without being given fair trial. Borghol told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that it is prejudicial to send all three to prison when they could be put under house arrest.
He added that since its establishment, 26 years ago, Khabar has been known to criticize policies adopted by Algerian governments. Khabar Group is a media-oriented joint stock company incorporating eponymous newspaper, KBC television channel, several printing companies and a broadcasting company.
Disputes between the government and Khabar continued after the CEO of Group Cevital, Issad Rebrab – who also owns Liberté newspaper – had embarked on buying the group’s affiliated newspaper and television channel. Bir Mourad Rais (Algiers) administrative court froze the transaction related to the purchase of the group’s shares by Ness-Prod, a subsidiary of Group Cevit.
According to Article 25 of the Information Bill, the same legal entity can own, control or manage only one periodic publication outlet for general information edited in Algeria.
Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal established an Audiovisual Regulatory Authority (ARAV) to regulate the audiovisual field in Algeria and consolidate the mission of public service.
Rebrab announced: “President Abdelaziz Bouteflika created this issue thinking I want to own a media empire that will take me to presidency. Of course that is not true.”
Communications Minister Hamid Grine said that the government could not stand idle with Rebrab clearly breaking Algerian law.With the purchase, Cevital group would have taken over more than 80 percent of Khabar Group shares.
Moreover, based on orders issued by Algeria’s governor Abdulqader Zoukh, Watan opposition newspaper was closed down and had its members banned from entering the office . Zoukh claimed that the newspaper has illegally appropriated a large area. According to Zoukh, Watan also installed a new story without first acquiring a legal construction permit.