19 December 2019: After his arrest on 11 November 2019, Algerian poet Mohamed Tadjadit was sentenced to 18 months in prison for “undermining the national unity” under Article 96 of the Penal Code for his satirical poetry reported Alquds. The Penal Code states that anyone who in any way shares content “of a nature to harm the national interest, is punished by imprisonment from six (6) months to three (3) years” and can be fined with the amount varied from 3,600 DA (27 euros) to 36,000 DA (272 euros).
According to the Human Rights Watch, Mohamed Tadjadit was later released on 2 January 2020, among some 70 activists released on this date.
Tadjadit, nicknamed ‘the poet of the Hirak’ for his involvement in the popular Hirak movement which originally centred on mass protests demanding for the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, is known in Algeria for openly criticising authorities and officials in his poems, which are shared on Facebook.
Translated from the artist’s Facebook:
“The slavery time is over. No candidate from the past is accepted. No elections with the “gangs”. Algeria is not the property of the generals anymore. You or us. The people are the one who decides”.
لوكان تحبطو مرشح ملجنا او تشلوه بذهب منرضاوش انتهى زمن العبودية. مكانش انتخابات مع العصاباتدزاير ماشى ملك الجنرالات المادة 7 يا حنا يا نتوما الشعب هو لى يقرر المصير تاعو #الشعب #هو # الشيكور
Human Rights Watch reports that the Hirak movement, which began in February 2019 when millions of Algerians went to the streets to demand the then-President’s resignation has now evolved into demands for a more “pluralistic and inclusive system of governance” since Bouteflika’s April 2019 resignation.
Tadjadit’s situation comes at the time of musician Cherif Atmani’s arrest in Tizi Ouzou in November 2019 for carrying posters calling for the rejection of the presidential elections. It is another example of the Algerian authorities’ alarming response to artists who use their works to criticise the government.
The poet’s detention is a violation of the right to freedom of expression protected by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Freemuse will monitor the progress of Tadjadit’s case.