Algeria: attack against two journalists over conference promoting Kabyle media

13 September 2017
PEN International condemns the attack against journalists Reda Amrani and Rachid At Ali Uqasi as they were preparing to give a conference to launch a TV channel promoting Kabyle language and  culture.

The Algerian authorities must guarantee the safety of journalists. They should urgently open and conduct a thorough investigation into  the attack against Amrani and Ali Uqasi and bring those responsible to justice.

On 4 September 2017, Amrani and Uqasi were attacked by a group of people while driving to the conference location in Akbou (Aqvu), a  town in Béjaïa Province, northern Algeria. The two journalists were  urgently taken to hospital, where they received treatment for their  injuries. In spite of the attack and earlier harassment from the  Algerian authorities, the journalists went ahead with their conference  later the same day. At the event, they spoke about the creation of the  new Kabyle language TV channel, and its importance in safeguarding the  Kabyle language and identity. Kabyle is a Berber language spoken  mainly in Algeria by persons belonging to Berber group.

The pair had originally planned to launch the TV channel on 1st  September in Tamazirt, however gendarmes intervened surrounding the  public square where the  conference was due to be held. The Mayor declared that “this event runs counter to the founding principles of the Algerian state of which Arab-Islamism is the matrix and the base”. He added that the event is “under the control of the gendarmerie and the security forces in the Kablie region”. Due to this, the conference was cancelled; however the journalists were determined to go ahead and relocated the event to  Akbou.

Both Amrani and Uqasi, originally from Algeria but based in Canada,  are co-directors for the future channel “TQ5”. They had recently  arrived in Algeria, where they planned to launch the TV channel and  explain to the Kabyle people the importance of their project to  promote and safeguard the Kabyle language.

“Harassment by the Algerians authorities over the organisation of  cultural events in Kabyle region not only undermines freedom of  expression, but respect for the Kabyle language and culture, rights  which are fundamental to sustainable peace.” said Simona Škrabec,  Chair of PEN’s Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee.
The authorities have prevented conferences and cultural events from  taking place in the Kabali region on numerous occasions. In one  instance, on 19 December 2015, a  conference by Rachid At Ali Uqaci was cancelled by the authorities at the last moment, without providing  any justification,  according to l’Association Culturelle Tiɛwinin, the organizer of this  event.

Background

Reda Amrani is a comedian and a film director. He has participated in  several projects with the Algerian National Theatre, and directed  several films. In 2006Amrani won the Best Young Creator in Drama Arts  in the Algerian National Forum of Youth, and in 2012, he won a prize  for the best actor in the Amazigh Cultural Festival and  Theatre, and was the recipient of the annual CAM (Amazigh Center of Montreal) in 2017. He is currently the Artistic Director of the forthcoming television “TQ5”.

Rachid At Ali Uqasi is a Doctor in Electronic Technologies and  Computing. He teaches Tamazight language at Ottawa-Carlton District  School. Uqasi is an active member of the Amazigh (North African  peoples) movement, through which he champions the rights of Amazigh  peoples for their language and culture to be recognized in North  Africa. Uqasi contributes to several Algerian newspapers, such as Le MatinDZ and Tamurt.

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