June 27, 2006 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 282

Profile of Reformist Algerian Cartoonist Ali Dilem

June 27, 2006 | By N. Szerman*
Algeria, North Africa | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 282


Algerian cartoonist Ali Dilem was born in 1967 in El-Harrach, a suburb of Algiers, and is of Kabyle origin. He studied at the National Art School in Algiers. [1] Dilem began his career as a cartoonist for the Algerian Communist weekly Alger Republican. In 1991, he drew cartoons for the independent Algerian daily Le Matin, [2] whose editor, Mohamed Benchicou, [3] was recently released from prison after serving a two-year sentence on charges of corruption. [4] Since 1996, Dilem has worked as a cartoonist for the French-language Algerian independent daily Liberté. Dilem also works for French TV5's Kiosque program. In 2000, he was awarded the International Prize of Drawing in Written Press. [5] In 2005, Dilem was awarded the Freedom of Press Trophy, which he dedicated to Benchicou; in 2006, he received the prestigious Cartoonist Rights Network Award.

Dilem became internationally known for his depictions of the Algerian political process and for his support of political pluralism in his country through his cartoons. In them, Dilem portrays Algerian civil society's criticism of the FLN (National Liberation Front) Party, in power since Algeria became independent in 1962; of the Islamist groups; and of the role of the army in the country. In an interview with, Dilem describes Algeria's political situation as follows: "The majority is General Toufik [military security director Mohamed Mediène], and the opposition is also General Toufik." [6]

On February 11, 2006, Dilem was sentenced to one year's imprisonment and fined 50,000 dinars (€550), for dozens of cartoons he had published in Liberté during 2003 depicting Algerian President Abdelaziz Boutlefika. Dilem was sentenced under Article 144b of the Algerian Criminal Code, which allows for a prison term of two to 12 months as well as a fine for "insulting" or defaming the president. [7] Currently, 24 cases of press offenses are pending against him. [8]

During the Algerian civil war between Islamists and the Algerian government (1990-1998), Dilem received death threats from Algerian Islamist groups. In 2004, a fatwa was issued against him "in all mosques throughout Algeria." [9] Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs Boulem Ghoulamallah took responsibility for this fatwa. [10]

In his interview with, Dilem reiterated his concerns about Islamist factions in Algeria, and said, "Everything that gave birth to the FIS [the Algerian Islamist party Front Islamique du Salut] [11] in Algeria still exists." [12]

The following is a selection of 32 cartoons by Dilem, published by Liberté and by TV5 [13] in 2005-2006. The cartoons focus on freedom of expression in the Arab world, especially with regard to the case of Benchicou in Algeria; women's rights; Iran's nuclear program; Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his widely criticized decision to undergo medical treatment in France rather than in his own country; and the release from prison of Islamists in Algeria, under the 2005 general amnesty. [14] An additional theme is human and civil rights.

Freedom of Expression

Liberté, June 15, 2006

Liberté, June 10, 2006

Liberté, April 3, 2006

TV5, "L’année vue par Dilem," June 2005

Liberté, January 30, 2006

Liberté, January 12, 2006


Liberté, May 24, 2006

Liberté, February 5, 2006

Liberté, January 3, 2006

Women's Rights

Liberté, November 27, 2005

Liberté, October 3, 2005

Islamists in Algeria

Liberté, May 15, 2006

Liberté, March 16, 2006

Liberté, March 1, 2006

Liberté, November 16, 2005

Liberté, October 1, 2005

Algerian President Bouteflika

Liberté, April 27, 2006

Liberté, April 22, 2006

Liberté, December 15, 2005

Miscellaneous - Interior Issues

Liberté, March 13, 2006

Liberté, March 11, 2006

Liberté, March 7, 2006

Liberté, December 10, 2005

Liberté, October 31, 2005

Liberté, October 12, 2005

Liberté, October 10, 2005

Liberté, September 21, 2005

Miscellaneous - International Issues

Liberté, April 26, 2006

Liberté, January 23, 2006

TV5, Kiosque, February 2006

TV5, "L’année vue par Dilem," April 2005

TV5, "L’année vue par Dilem," October 2005

*Nathalie Szerman is Director of MEMRI's North African Reformists Project.


[2] Le Matin was closed in 2004, when editor Mohamed Benchicou was imprisoned. After Benchicou’s release, he declared that Le Matin would soon return., June 15, 2006.

[3] Mohamed Benchicou is the editor of Algerian daily Le Matin. In 2004, he published a biography of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, titled Bouteflika: Une imposture algérienne, that exposed the corruption of the regime. Benchicou was imprisoned in June 2004 on charges of corruption and was released on June 14, 2006.

[4], June 6, 2006.


[6], February 17, 2005.

[7], February 16, 2006.

[8], February 16, 2006.

[9], February 17, 2005.

[10], Associated Press, as cited by, February 15, 2004.

[11] The Algerian political party Front Islamique du Salut has been banned since 1992. In December 1991, the Algerian government cancelled the second round of elections after the first round showed an FIS victory. The Algerian civil war broke out shortly afterwards.

[12], February 17, 2005.

[13], L’année vue par Dilem,

[14] Algeria Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Charte pour la Paix et la Reconciliation Nationale:

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