The International Federation of Journalists condemned today the continued crackdown on private media in Algeria, following the “intolerable persecution” of a number of local journalists. The IFJ says that there is increasing evidence of political pressure on independent media as the country gears up for national elections next year.
The Algerian government has summoned seven journalists working for Liberté, without justification before the police. The seven journalists targeted are: managing editor Farid Alilat, former managing editor Outoudert Abrous, columnist Mustapha Hammouche, editor Saïd Chekri, cartoonist Ali Dilem and journalists Mourad Belaïdi and Rafik Benkaci.
“This is intolerable persecution of professional journalists,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “They are being targeted by political leaders who are threatening press freedom and the fabric of democracy.” Earlier this week White travelled to Algiers and met with publishers and editors of newspapers that have been targeted by the government.
A little over two weeks ago, seven Algerian independent dailies were suspended based on claims by the authorities of commercial irregularities. The seven newspapers in question - Le Soir d’Algérie, Liberté, El-Watan, Le Matin, El-Khabar, l’Expression and Er-Raï – had been given one week to pay media debts to state printing firms. Immediately after this flagrant attack on press freedom, the IFJ reacted by condemning these actions as “bureaucratic moves to silence the free press in Algeria”.
The IFJ is writing to the Algerian Minister of Culture and Communication, Khalida Toumi and the President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika calling on them to reaffirm the country’s commitment to press freedom and democracy. “This sort of unexplained pressure and harassment on journalists must be stopped immediately,” said White.
“It is completely unacceptable for the authorities to try to muzzle dissident voices, particularly in the months before a crucial national election.”
One week ago, Aliat and several other journalists from the paper had also been grilled regarding publications they had issued exposing corruption by high-ranking government officials. Although five of the aforementioned papers paid the media debt, and have resumed publication, both l’Expression and Er-Raï have been forced out of action.
The IFJ is calling on the Algerian government to rescind the suspension of l’Expression and Er-Raï, and to recognize the democratic rights of all media, both independent and state-owned, to criticize their regime and to do so without any external interference.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries