In Algeria, the press comes up against a series of red lines. Simply mentioning corruption or the crushing of demonstrations can invite threats and police interrogation.v
The journalistic landscape in Algeria has never before deteriorated to this extent. Independent media are under pressure, journalists are regularly imprisoned or prosecuted, and many online sites are blocked. The leading media are private television networks, including Ennahar TV, Echorouk TV and El Bilad TV. Outlets considered most serious and credible are the daily El Watan for the print press, and TSA and Interlignes for the online press.
Tension dominates the political climate, especially following the December 2019 election of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. Media and journalists have been under constant pressure, most of it from the president’s office, political parties, security services and local officials. Reporters are impeded from doing their jobs freely and independently when the government exerts direct influence on the hiring and firing of executives in the media and in regulatory agencies.
The legislative environment is growing increasingly restrictive. Article 54 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but also threatens journalists’ freedom by treating the dissemination of information and opinions in a framework of respect for “the nation’s religious, moral and cultural characteristics and values.” A reform to the penal code, adopted in 2020, provides for prison sentences of one to three years for disseminating “false news” and “hate speech” aimed at harming “national security and order” as well as “state security and national unity.” These laws are regularly used to prosecute and convict journalists. In this atmosphere, censorship and self-censorship flourish.
The private sector has been hit hard since 2019, with many outlets and television networks forced to shut down, above all because advertising has dried up. In addition, government subsidies are granted only to state-owned media or to private outlets close to the regime.
The social and political environment for journalists differs from north to south. In cities in the interior, local associations, the prefect and religious groups are powerful and impose journalistic censorship. Social and religious conservatism also play a major role, preventing reporters from taking on topics tied to sexuality or religion.
Threats and intimidation of journalists are on the rise due to the lack of any protective mechanism. Reporters critical of the authorities face arbitrary detention, constant surveillance and electronic monitoring. Independent journalists or those close to Hirak, a dissent movement launched in February 2019, may be targeted for online threats, and hate campaigns launched by “electronic flies” (“doubab” in Arabic) from anonymous accounts linked to the regime.