IFJ Launches Campaign To Reform Algerian Media And Criticises Plan for Legal Controls Over Ethics

The International Federation of Journalists today relaunched its Solidarity Centre in Algiers with a call for Algerian journalists to work together to promote independent media and decent working conditions for journalists throughout the country.

“Algerian journalists work in difficult and sometimes shocking conditions,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It is time for journalists to join together to fight for their professional rights as well as rights at work.”

The IFJ Centre, which was first opened in 1996, but has been inactive for the last two years, will be the focal point of a new campaign to improve the rights of Algerian journalists. The centre will co-ordinate a nationwide survey of the current status of journalists in Algeria and will be one of four countries in the Arab World where the IFJ is launching a new trade union development programme.

“The Algerian media often fail in their responsibility to provide basic working conditions and employment rights,” said White. “The fight for press freedom is always a top priority, but we cannot use professional difficulties as an excuse for failing to provide decent standards in the workplace.”

Yesterday, White met with Algerian Communications Minister Dr. Boudjemad Haichor urging him to avoid confrontation with media groups over plans for legal enforcement of a code of ethics on the media. The IFJ says the solidarity centre at the Maison de la Presse will promote a broad range of actions to improve the media landscape including:

  • Reform of the state radio and television scene to encourage public service broadcasting. The IFJ centre will organize a national event next year on the issue;

  • Reform of the system for allocating public advertising to make the system open, transparent and accessible to all;

  • Reform of the penal code and information code to remove the possibility of journalists being sent to jail for theri professional activities. The IFJ centre will monitor attacks on press freedom and campaign against the jailing of journalists.

    “These are first steps that must be taken to create professional confidence across the media,” said White. “Talk of a new law on a code of ethics for journalists causes concern that the aim is to control journalists and to manipulate media for political reasons.

    “We must have a broader base for reform that encourages self-regulation. We need a culture of journalism with the confidence to face up to its responsibilities and to make self-correction when it is needed,” he said.

    The IFJ is working closely with its affiliate, the Syndicat National des Journalistes, to encourage more recruitment and to strengthen the union presence in Algeria’s news rooms.

    “The union should be the unquestioned voice of Algerian journalists,” said White. “We will do all we can to support their plans to strengthen their membership base and to provide support to journalists throughout the country wherever they need support.”

    The solidarity centre will closely monitor current discussions on the status of journalists in Algeria and the debate about who has access to the profession. As part of this work a detailed national survey of journalism is planned.

    The impetus to revive the centre came earlier this year following international protests in the cases of jailed journalist Ghoul Hafnaoui and Mohamed Benchicou.

    “These cases have stirred fears for press freedom in Algeria,” said White. “It is now time for Algerian journalists themselves to show that they can work together to protect and enhance their rights. The centre, with the support of the SNJ, will be there to help them do just that.”

    For more information contact: +32 2 235 2211

    The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries