The international nongovernmental organization Reporters Without Borders said on Sunday, March 29, that one of its correspondents, Khaled Drareni, has been put in pre-trial custody by Algerian authorities. Drareni was embedded with the protest movement Hirak, the large grassroots movement that until recently held weekly demonstrations against the Algerian government, demanding a complete overhaul of the system. Drareni was arrested on Friday, sparking immediate criticism and outrage from Reporters Without Borders, free press advocates, and human rights activists.
Why It Matters
Drareni’s arrest is the latest in a series of punitive measures the Algerian government has taken against independent journalists and Hirak protesters. Following a March 7 Hirak demonstration that he covered, Drareni was accused of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “undermining national unity”, and an arrest warrant was issued for him. Other journalists have been arrested for covering Hirak or writing other anti-government stories. Human rights lawyers have argued that the Algerian government is taking advantage of Hirak’s decision to suspend demonstrations during the pandemic to attack its leadership. There has been a decline in press freedom in the North African country: Reporters Without Borders ranked Algeria 141st out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, down from 136th in 2018 and 121st in 2015.