RSF deplores owner’s decision to close leading Algerian daily
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the owner’s decision to close the leading Algerian French-language daily Liberté, which has been subjected to constant harassment from the government’s highest level in recent years. The paper’s sudden sacrifice for no good reason bodes ill for other Algerian media, RSF’s says.
In the 30 years that it has existed, Liberté has been appreciated for the quality of its reporting, its coverage of provincial as well as national news and, not least, the internationally acclaimed talent of Dilem, its back-page cartoonist.
Now that the decision has been taken to publish its last issue this week, the newspaper’s management is expected to begin negotiations with its journalists and other employees, who will be seeking to protect their rights.
“The daily Liberté’s closure comes against a political and economic backdrop that is extremely unfavourable for press freedom in Algeria,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said, pointing out that other newspapers such as El Watan are also being subjected to a great deal of pressure and have lost much of their revenue from both state and private-sector advertising.
Was billionaire businessman owner Isaad Rebrab’s decision to close the result of endless pressure from the highest level in recent months about the newspaper’s editorial policies? No valid reason was given by Rebrab, who simply announced his sudden decision and refusal to consider any alternative.
Liberté distinguished itself by its unflagging news coverage during Algeria’s ten-year war against an Islamist insurgency although many journalists were the targets of terrorist attacks and two of its reporters, Hamid Mahiout and Zineddine Aliou Salah, were murdered in 1995.
It was founded in 1992 by journalists Ahmed Fattani, Hacene Ouandjeli and Ali Ouafek together with Rebrab, who acquired sole ownership a few years later. It has had around about 30 staff journalists and a dozen freelance contributors, and a print-run of 50,000, of which few copies were left unsold.
RSF has never stopped reminding the Algerian authorities of the vital need to respect the foundations of press freedom, and has repeatedly called for the release of all detained journalists. Dozens of journalists have been arbitrarily arrested, prosecuted and jailed since the start of the “Hirak” anti-government protests in February 2019.
Algeria is ranked 146th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.