Algeria | 23.07.2002

Reporter for El Watan attacked and kidnapped


image 122 x 26 (GIF)  Reporters Without Borders expressed its concern today about the beating up and kidnapping of a reporter from the daily newspaper El Watan on 20 July by a local official in the northern town of Tebessa who did not like what he had written about him.

"We are shocked by this attack on the reporter, Abdelhai Beliardouh," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "If the local official felt he had been libelled, why did he not file a complaint before a court like any other citizen? This is a serious incident typical of a state of lawlessness.

"Algerian prime minister Ali Benflis said the day after the attack that ’press freedom is the foundation of democracy,’ so we appeal to the Algerian authorities to see that those responsible for this incident are punished."

Beliardouh, correspondent for the French-language El Watan in Tebessa, was attacked at his home by four officials of the chamber of commerce of Nememchas (covering Tebessa and Souk Ahras), one of them armed, and including the chamber’s president, Saâd Garboussi.

Beliardouh was beaten up in front of his family and then dragged by the collar through the streets of the town to a square, where he was beaten further and publicly insulted. El Watan said police did not intervene to help the journalist, who was then taken by car to the cellar of Garboussi’s house where he was interrogated about the source of report in the paper that day that the chamber president had been arrested.

Beliardouh had written that a police informer had said Garboussi had funded terrorist activities and helped the Islamic fundamentalist GIA to launder money raised through crime and racketeering in the Medea and Jijel regions.

Shortly before the attack, Garboussi had phoned El Watan’s acting editor, Faisal Metaoui, to demand that he print his response to the article in the next day’s paper. When he was told it would not be possible until the day after, Garboussi said: "You’ll see, I’m going to deal with him."

El Watan filed a complaint with the state prosecutor in Tebessa for "kidnapping and intimidation" and called on the local authorities to ensure the safety of Beliardouh, whose attackers told him that if he repeated his error, he and his family would be killed.

Beliardouh told the daily paper Le Matin on 22 July that the attack on him had been "thuggery and terrorism." Garboussi denied that the incident had taken place and said he had filed a legal complaint.

  Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world. It has nine national sections (Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). It has representatives in Bangkok, London, New York, Tokyo and Washington. And it has more than 120 correspondents worldwide.
  © Reporters Without Borders 2002

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