Algerian newspapers (AFP)
Algerian government issues a harsh warning to the media
Algerian Minister of Communication Jamal Kaouan said that “the Algerian press enjoys absolute freedom, and freedom of expression in Algeria is completely unrestricted. The media must therefore be self-respecting, adhere to professional ethics, present content that covers local issues, and convey information from reliable sources.”
These remarks were made after a series of events in the Algerian press, the latest being a hunger strike by Hadda Hazem, the directress of the daily al-Fadjr, “to protest the government’s refusal to run advertisements for state companies in al-Fadjr.” Hazem said that she was being punished because of her oppositionist positions.
Prior to this incident, the news website “Everything about Algeria” was blocked. The website director accused the government of “deliberately blocking the site,” condemning the move as a serious infringement on freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
Rights activists have accused the government of withholding advertising to pressure the media, especially media organizations that cross “red lines.”
The press is responsible
Commenting on Kaouan’s statement, a communications professor at the University of Algeria, Dr. Mohamed Hadir, said, “The new constitution, article 41, eliminates provisions that permit the arrest of journalists on press-related charges. It grants journalists a large margin of freedom, and the new audiovisual laws guarantee this right.
“Newspapers have always benefited from revenues of advertisements placed by the state, but the performance of journalists remains poor” he said in a statement to Maghreb Voices. “The newspaper owners did not use their advertising revenues to train and enhance the capabilities of journalists, improve their wages and social life, and provide for their right to housing and a decent living.”
“The press bears responsibility for the defamation that it commits,” he said. “There are times when the press deals with subjects without providing any evidence or conducting research. They thus get caught up in defamation and subjective criticism. By the same token, we have seen the press responsibly criticizing the government and the government’s performance without being restricted by the authorities.”
Punishing the media
The head of the New Generation Party, Gilali Sufian, however, accused the government of continuing to “stifle and blackmail the press.”
Sufian told Maghreb Voices that abuses in the press are committed by individuals, but the overall picture is one of the narrowing of freedom of expression. “The authorities punish the free media by denying it advertising and simultaneously blackmailing it to force it not to cross defined redlines.”
Sufian called for “opening up the advertising market in Algeria so that newspapers and satellite channels can seek funding other than state funding to ensure their financial independence and freedom to express their positions and criticize the government without fear of a crackdown.”
This story originally appeared on alhurra.com. (December 26, 2017)