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Algerian leader pardons journalists

Written by: Staff

ALGIERS, July 3 (Reuters) Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has issued pardons to journalists convicted of insulting or defaming the government, in the second move of its kind this year, his office said in a statement today.

The measures, timed to coincide with the 44th anniversary of Algeria's independence on July 5, included reporters convicted of ''outrage to state officials, institutions and the constitutional body, defamation and insult,'' the statement said.

Bouteflika also pardoned several convicts who had passed exams while in prison, it said.

The statement did not say how many journalists were pardoned.

''These measures confirm our country's attachment to freedom of expression and press freedom, reflect the interest shown by the President of the Republic in reviving the values of effort and merit and express the constant attention shown by our country towards children and women,'' it said.

Bouteflika pardoned several journalists in May to mark World Press Freedom Day, the first such step since he came to office seven years ago.

None of those journalists had actually been sent to prison, despite their sentences.

Independent newspapers have had strained relations with the authorities in recent years, and international human rights groups have criticised Algeria for clamping on journalists who take government policies and officials to task.

The government has said any judicial proceedings against journalists have nothing to do with politics or press freedom.

Algerian journalists are freer than in many other Arabic-speaking countries and the country's press has flourished in recent years, with some 119 titles including 43 dailies created since the early 1990s, analysts say.

Reuters DH VP0128

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