Algerias cartoon controversy

Index reports that Algerian cartoonist, Ali Dilem has been sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 50,000 dinar (£376 or €500) over a series of cartoons depicting President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2003.

The cartoons, which satirized the president, ran in the daily paper, Liberte, in October and November 2003. Dilem has been working as a cartoonist for the paper since 1993. He has 24 cases of press violations filed against him and has been sentenced to a total of nine years in prison. Dilem has now been sentenced to a total of more than nine years in prison, said Paris-based media rights group Reporters sans Frontieres. President Bouteflika is very thin-skinned and the countrys courts are clogged with media cases. has an interview with Dilem as well as some of the cartoons for which he was sentenced (reproduced below).

Bishop : “This year, for Candlemas day we had Saracen - also means Buckwheat in French - pancakes”
“Here’s the proof ! I’m the president !”
On the wall : picture of jailed journalist Benchicou
On the dog’s dish : “the people”

Immoral Reality

The Telegraph reports that Algeria has banned as immoral a reality television show that has become so popular in the Arab world that restaurants in the region are empty during its broadcasts.

Star Academy, a version of Fame Academy, is keeping the Middle East on the edge of its seat with the rare sight of male and female contestants competing for the prize of money, fame and a record deal.

The show has weathered protests that it is un-Islamic and a toxic import from the West but this week Algerian national television stopped showing the programme after protests by the main Islamist party.

Aboudjerra Soltani, the leader of the Movement for a Society of Peace, said the show was a provocation against society and attacked its moral values. It can still be watched on satellite television.

The programme was launched by the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation and is filmed in Lebanon, but is transmitted across the Arab world. Although wildly popular, the Star Acadamy has attracted more than a small amount of criticism for being un-Islamic or because reality TV is simply too western.

The Dean of the School of Islamic Law and Sharia at Kuwait University passed a fatwa condemning the show; the Kuwaiti parliament has discussed legislation to protect public morality from Star Academy, and articles in the Saudi press have called the building where the contestants live a whorehouse.

The programme has outlasted Arabic Big Brother, which was launched in Bahrain in 2004 and closed down after oly a week when a kiss between two contestants provoked mass demonstrations in the Bahraini capital, Manama.

(via The Melon Farmers)

Journalists jailed for Muhammed

Muhammed cartoon Reporters Without Borders has launched an appeal and a petition for the immediate release of six journalists thrown into prison in Yemen and Algeria for reprinting the pictures at the centre of the Muhammed cartoons controversy as part of informing their readers.

“Whatever one thinks of the cartoons or whether they should be published, it is absolutely unjustified to jail or prosecute journalists, threaten them with death or shut down newspapers for this reason,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

At least 11 journalists are being prosecuted in five countries and six have been imprisoned. Some face long prison sentences if convicted.

Two editors in Jordan have been charged with provocation and encouraging disorder. Four journalists have been jailed in Yemen and charged under article 103 of the press law, which bans publication of anything that “harms Islam, denigrates monotheistic religion or a humanitarian belief.” Reporters Without Borders calls for all criminal cases among these to be dropped.

In total, thirteen publications have been temporarily or permanently closed in Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia for reprinting the cartoons.

A conference to discuss the cartoons crisis on 9 February in Paris stressed that nothing could justify the imprisonment of journalists. More than a dozen journalists, intellectuals and religious officials from Western and Arab/Muslim countries attended the meeting, organised by Reporters Without Borders and the Arab Commission for Human Rights, and appealed for calm and dialogue. A similar conference will be held in Cairo on 25 February.

All of the journalists in question have been jailed for simply doing their job and passing on news that made headlines around the world.