JULY 2, 2003
Algerian authorities banned the foreign media from covering the release
of two convicted leaders of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), a group
that was outlawed in 1992 when its party was poised to win parliamentary
elections. At least two French news crews were expelled the next day for
ignoring the ban.
According to CPJ sources in Algeria, government officials contacted foreign
news outlets in the capital, Algiers, and told them they were barred from
covering the release of FIS leaders Ali Belhadj and Abassi Madani, who
were sentenced to prison in 1992. Madani had been under house arrest since
1997, while Belhadj was held at a prison in Blida, about 25 miles (40
kilometers) south of Algiers.
On July 1, the Communications Ministry contacted the state-run French
television stations France 2 and France 3 and the private French station
TF1all of which were in Algiers to cover the return of Air France
flights to Algeriatelling the outlets that they were not allowed
to cover Madani and Belhadj's release, said a France 2 spokesperson.
The spokesperson said that the three stations ignored the ban and fed
a tape of Belhadj's prison release to their stations in Paris from their
hotel. After the footage aired on French television, police went to the
hotel and confiscated the journalists' equipment. The TF1 team left the
country before the official expulsion order came, and Algerian authorities
accompanied the France 2 and France 3 journalists to the airport.
Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse reported that the crews of another French
station and a Belgian station were also expelled. CPJ was unable to confirm
AUGUST 14, 2003
Le Soir d'Algérie
The state printer issued an ultimatum to six privately owned dailiesEl-Khabar,
Errai, Le Soir d'Algérie, Le Matin, L'Expression,
and Libertéstating that if they did not pay debts
owed to the printer within 72 hours, they would not be published. Within
two weeks, three of the papers paid their debts and resumed printing.
However, Errai, Le Soir d'Algérie, and L'Expression
have been unable to pay, and the printer have refused them service.
Journalists at the newspapers accused Algerian officials of using the
papers' debts to pressure publications because of their editorial content.
Some of the newspapers involved have told CPJ that authorities were angered
over the publications' recent reports implicating top government officials
in financial malfeasance.
Editors who spoke with CPJ said that the state printer issued its ultimatum
despite previous agreements stating that the papers could repay the debts
in installments, and that the sums demanded were actually not due for
several months. Several pointed out that other Algerian newspapers that
owe the state printer money were not given ultimatums.
This is not the first time that the Algerian state printer has refused
to print newspapers. Since private Algerian newspapers emerged in the
early 1990s, editors have repeatedly complained about politically motivated
pressures from the printer.
SEPTEMBER 8, 2003
Mohamed Benchicou, Le Matin
Ali Dilem, Liberté
HARASSED, LEGAL ACTION
Algerian authorities detained Benchicou, managing editor of the French-language
daily Le Matin, and Dilem, a cartoonist with the French-language
daily Liberté. Youssef Razzouj, Le Matin's editor,
told CPJ that police arrested Benchicou at his home and took him in for
questioning. According to Razzouj, Benchicou was released after being
queried about several recent articles in Le Matin about government
corruption and financial malfeasance.
On September 9, an investigating judge questioned Benchicou about the
same articles. State prosecutors allege that the articles defame President
Police also detained Dilem on September 8 and released him the same day.
Like Benchicou, Dilem faced an investigating judge the following day,
who questioned him about several of his recent cartoons, which allegedly
insulted the president. Dilem was not charged but could face more questioning
as the investigation continues.