Algeria: journalist Khaled Drareni freed

By Jeune Afrique

Posted on Tuesday, 23 February 2021 12:20
Algeria Protesters Freed
Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni flashes the V sign after being released from prison in Algiers, Friday, Feb.19, 2021. (AP Photo/Fateh Guidoum)

The Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni, was released last week on 19 February after nearly a year in custody. He had begun his career as a leading television presenter before becoming a symbol of the fight for press freedom in Algeria.

Released after a long day of waiting for his relatives, activists and fellow journalists gathered in front of the penitentiary centre of Kolea, western Algeria, Khaled Drareni appeared calm and in good shape, wearing a face mask.

“I thank all those who have supported me and who have supported the prisoners because your support is fundamental to all of us and is proof of our innocence,”  he said in a video posted on social networks.

Upon being released from prison, he made the ‘V’ of victory with his fingers, a sign that he has waved in recent years in the face of intimidation by the authorities.

Born in Algeria on May 10, 1980 into a wealthy family, Drareni, an athletic and charismatic individual, studied law and political science at the Ben Aknoun faculty in Algeria before starting a career in journalism.

Professionalism and rigour

After his debut in the public eye/media, Drareni quickly became a star presenter on private channels from 2013, notably through his shows on Dzair TV and Echourouk TV.

Respected by his colleagues for his professionalism and rigour, in 2017, he created Casbah Tribune, which covers Algerian news and has now been blocked by the authorities since December 2020. He also works as a correspondent in Algeria for the French-Speaking channel TV5 Monde and the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

In mid-September, the 40-year-old journalist was sentenced to two years in prison for “inciting unarmed gatherings” and “undermining national unity”. He appeared thinner at his trial, raising concern about the conditions of his imprisonment.

‘I was just doing my job’

Drareni was repeatedly threatened by the security services who accused him of being close to the Hirak, the popular protest movement. He was arrested in Algeria in March 2020, on the sidelines of a demonstration.

However, the journalist defended himself in front of the jury stating that: “I was only doing my job”.

He had been following the Hirak marches from the beginning of the movement in February 2019, notably via his Twitter account, followed by hundreds of thousands of people. He would share photos, slogans and statements live from the protest marches.

‘Arbitrary detention’

While legal charges were being brought against him, journalists and human rights activists gathered in Algeria and abroad to demand his immediate release.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune- the very man who allowed his release by granting a presidential pardon to Hirak detainees- without ever mentioning his name, hinted that Drareni was a spy for foreign embassies.

“Free at last! After 11 months of arbitrary detention for exercising his profession, our correspondent in Algeria, Khaled Drareni, regains the freedom he should never have lost!” RSF proclaimed on Twitter.

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