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Algeria March 13, 2006
H.E. Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria
Fax: (011.213.2) 60-96-18
We write to protest your government’s actions in response to the continuing turmoil over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The arrest of two Algerian editors and the closing of their weekly publications clearly violates Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was also an over-reaction, since the BBC has reported that both papers were critical of the caricatures, and the drawings they printed to illustrate their articles were partially obscured to avoid offense.
Kamel Bousaad, editor of pro-Islamist weekly, Errissala, and Berkane Bouderbala, managing editor of the weekly, Essafir, were charged under Article 144 of the penal code and now face possible heavy fines and imprisonment of up to five years. The Overseas Press Club of America, which has defended journalists around the world for more than 65 years, argues that the two editors were merely doing their jobs and keeping their communities informed about a controversy that clearly affected them.
Your Excellency, this controversy has been provocative in its origins, mischievous in its exploitation and tragic in its consequences. We hope it may subside without further damage. But it would be harmful indeed if the episode served to justify suppression of the basic human right of free expression.
We hope you will call for moderation and non-violence in protesting the cartoons, but we also urge you to underscore the value of a free exchange of views. And we ask you to do everything in your power to re-open the two newspapers and drop the charges against their editors.
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee
Ambassador of Algeria to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Dem. & Pop. Republic of Algeria
2137 Wyoming Avenue, NW
Washington , DC 20008
Fax: (202) 667-2174
Ambassador Abdallah Baali
Permanent Mission of the Dem. & Pop. Republic of Algeria
to the United Nations
326 East 48 th Street
New York , NY 10017
Fax: (212) 759-9538
Richard W. Erdman
U.S. Ambassador to Algeria
Embassy of the United States of America
4 chemin Cheikh Bachir El-Ibrahimi
Fax: (011.213.2) 69-39-79