One of the three sites blocked yesterday is the Casbah Tribune, a national news website founded in 2017 by Khaled Drareni, the Algeria correspondent of RSF and the French TV broadcaster TV5 Monde. Jailed since March, Drareni was sentenced in September to two years in prison.
The other two are Tariq News, an Arabic-language website covering political news in Algeria and neighbouring Maghrebi countries, and Twala.info, a site launched in October covering general and business news. All three sites can still be accessed using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). None of the sites has received any message from the communication ministry explaining the blocking.
“By blocking three more sites in less than 24 hours, the Algerian authorities are blindly forging ahead with their clampdown on the country’s media,” said Souhaieb Khayati, the head of RSF’s North Africa desk. “The harassment of critical voices keeps on intensifying both online and offline. We urge the Algerian authorities to respect their constitution and international obligations or risk seeing an exodus of journalists.”
These three sites have joined the list of independent sites which the Algerian authorities have been blocking since Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s election as president in late 2019 although Tebboune promised to reinforce fundamental freedoms, including the freedom to inform.
RSF has confirmed that the following seven online media outlets, at least, were already being blocked:
- Maghreb Emergent and Radio M, news sites owned by the Interface Médias group that began being blocked on 10 April. They were unblocked in October but are completely inaccessible again now. In an attempt to justify the censorship, the authorities have accused them (without any grounds) of receiving foreign funding and defaming the president.
- Interlignes, a site that covers Algerian politics and business news. Since 19 April, the only way to access it in Algeria is to use a VPN. The authorities have provided no explanation for the blocking.
- Dzvid, a general news site that support the Hirak protest movement. It has been blocked since 22 April. The authorities have provided no explanation for the blocking.
- Le Matin d’Algérie, a general news site that has covered the Hirak protests. The authorities have been blocking it since 12 May with giving any explanation.
- Tout sur l’Algérie, a general news site that has been blocked since June 2019. The authorities have provided no explanation for the blocking.
- L’Avant-Garde, a general news site that has been blocked at least twice in 2020: first for 20 days starting on 14 May (when the site received no explanation from the authorities) and then for several days beginning on 23 August.
The Algerian authorities began stepping up pressure on journalists 18 months ago. Yesterday’s decision to block three more sites comes at a time when Algerians are wondering about President Tebboune’s prolonged absence. After receiving treatment for a Covid-19 infection in Germany, Tebboune was reportedly due to return to Algerian “in the coming days.”
Algeria is ranked 146th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index, five places lower than in 2019 and 27 lower than in 2015.