(NEW YORK)—PEN America today called on Algerian authorities to immediately release journalist Mustapha Bendjema from detention and to stop their pursuit of human rights activists and journalists for their work. Algerian police arrested Bendjema at his office at the newspaper Le Provincial in Annaba, where he is the editor-in-chief. According to the news outlet Interlignes, Annaba police extended his detention on February 12.

Bendjema was reportedly questioned about his association with Amira Bouraoui, an activist and radio host who was detained in Tunisia and nearly deported back to Algeria before being permitted to travel to France. Algerian authorities also arrested Bouraoui’s mother, sister and cousin after she traveled to France, with her mother and cousin reportedly still in custody as of February 13.

Bendjema’s detention comes amid a larger Algerian government crackdown on human rights activism and free expression in the country. On January 22, the Algerian human rights organization Ligue Algérienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (LADDH) confirmed a court decision from last September ordering the dissolution of the organization. Algerian authorities also arrested the journalist Ihsane El Kadi in December 2022 and shuttered the media outlets Maghreb Emergent and Radio M at the same time.

“By arresting journalists and shuttering human rights organizations and independent media outlets, the Algerian government is signaling that it is doubling down on repression instead of allowing the Algerian people to express themselves freely. PEN America is calling on the Algerian government to immediately release all detained journalists and their family members and to allow media outlets and civil society organizations to operate openly,” said Justin Shilad, research and advocacy lead for the Middle East and North Africa at PEN America.