Algeria: media increasingly under pressure as presidential election approaches

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the fact that Algerian journalists are under growing pressure from their bosses to portray the coming presidential election favourably although most Algerians oppose it. The authorities must respect journalistic pluralism and debate during the election campaign, RSF said.

Four journalists with the pro-government daily Le Temps d’Algérie were suspended without warning on 19 November in a dispute sparked by a Facebook post by one of the four, Aissa Moussi, criticizing a front page claim that there was “unanimity on the need” for Algerians to “vote en masse.” He also accused the management of “dictating a shameful editorial line” and said he had been censored for weeks.

In a show of solidarity, Moussi’s colleagues refused to put that day’s issue to bed, with the result that the management accused them of “behaviour causing prejudice to the company.” The journalists responsible for the front page then walked out, with the result that yesterday’s issue did not appear, and four journalists were banned from entering the building.

On 17 November, Linda Hamed, a news presenter with Alger Channel 3 public TV, resigned under a clause guaranteeing journalists the right not to have to go against their beliefs. She told RSF she took this decision after the management asked her to read a report about the coming presidential election that had been rewritten.

We urge the Algerian authorities to respect media pluralism and the need for debate during the campaign for the 12 December presidential election, said Souhaieb Khayati, the head of RSF’s North Africa desk. “We also urge the authorities not to obstruct the work of the media and to respect the undertakings that they themselves have given at both the national and international levels.”

Press freedom and the freedom to inform are, in theory, guaranteed by the Algerian constitution, which the People’s National Assembly adopted on 7 February 2016. In 1989, Algeria ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 19 of which protects freedom of expression.

RSF invites Algerian journalists to read its Handbook for Journalists during Elections, which it published jointly with the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF) in 2015. It offers practical advice that could help them during this sensitive moment in Algeria’s political life.

Algeria is ranked 141st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 22.11.2019