on the Press in Algeria 1992-1998: Case Histories
Journalists: Two Cases
Algeria: Independent or Partisan Press?
Assassinations of Journalists
Since the Algerian army canceled legislative
elections in January 1992, to prevent victory by the Islamic
Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut, or FIS), Algeria
has been embroiled in a brutal civil conflict. An estimated 75,000
people have been killed in the violence, now in its seventh year.
The country's emergent private press has faced tremendous hardship
as a victim of both sides of the conflict between the state and armed
Islamist groups. A three-year assassination campaign by suspected
religious extremists beginning in May 1993 claimed the lives of 58*
journalists and forced most of those choosing to remain in the country
to operate under siege-like conditions. And the state has vigorously
controlled press coverage of the violence through blanket censorship,
the suspension of newspapers, and the arrest and criminal prosecution
of journalists who attempt independent reporting. While Islamist extremists,
who are believed responsible for most of the killings, no longer target
journalists for death -- there have been no murders of journalists
since August 1996 -- the legacy of that nightmare period is a press
decimated in number and tethered to the state for protection and even
shelter. Those journalists who seek to take a more independent path
have incurred the government's wrath and endured a variety of judicial
and extra-judicial retaliatory strikes.
In recent months, the state has eased some of the more obviously draconian
restrictions on the press that were common in the early years of political
strife -- a result of international pressure and perhaps of the regime's
increasing confidence in its battle against extremists. In December
1997, the government abolished the notorious "reading committees"
it had established at printing houses the previous year to ensure
that newspapers conform to the official line on the conflict. Reporters
say they now have greater opportunity to gather information on political
violence in the field and publish it than at any time in the last
six years. While criminal defamation prosecutions of reporters continue,
authorities have refrained from using the courts against newspapers
and journalists who report on political violence as in years past.
Algeria's press is able to criticize government policies and offer
dissent on many issues.
October, the Algerian government invited CPJ to visit the country
for a first-hand view of conditions for the press -- part of an apparent
campaign to deflect international criticism on the issue of human
rights. CPJ has monitored Algeria's isolated and besieged press throughout
the conflict, and viewed this as an opportunity to show solidarity
with Algerian journalists and raise our concerns about freedom of
expression in the country with its leaders. I traveled to Algiers
accompanied by Kamel Eddine Labidi, a consultant to CPJ who also works
as a free-lance journalist based in Arlington, Virginia, to meet with
reporters, editors, lawyers, and officials. Despite the mandatory
presence of armed escorts when traveling about the city, we conducted
dozens of interviews with journalists representing a variety of private
and state-owned newspapers during a two-week period. On October
27, CPJ board member and CNN correspondent Peter Arnett joined
us for a meeting with Minister of Communications and Culture Habib
Chawki Hamraoui. The delegation presented the minister with the preliminary
findings of its research.
Out of these interviews and meetings emerged a picture of the Algerian
press today. Despite the recent favorable changes, the print media
remain subject to a variety of constraints which hamper independent
reporting. The state continues to use subtle tactics to discourage
reporting on sensitive political issues, such as the country's security
concerns and alleged government improprieties. It controls the printing
presses and the distribution of public-sector advertising, using both
to exert economic pressure on dissenting publications. Officials use
criminal defamation and other statutes to silence or sway editors
and reporters, while other repressive laws and decrees remain on the
books as a sword over journalists' heads.
The press is also hindered by less conspicuous obstacles. The practice
of self-censorship on issues central to the conflict such as human
rights abuses, its counter-insurgency war, government corruption,
and the viewpoints and activities of the FIS is widespread.
"You can't talk about freedom of the press and freedom of expression
in a country run by security services and the army," said one Algerian
political observer, noting the level of fear confronting the press.
Restrictions on the foreign media, the sheer difficulty of obtaining
sources of information, and an overall lack of media pluralism further
contribute to keeping many details about Algeria's bloody war beyond
the reach of the public. And perhaps equally significant, many
Algerian journalists continue to operate under a siege mentality.
Despite what many have described as an overall feeling of greater
safety in Algiers, their dependence on the government—for information,
even for shelter—persists.
In 1998, as international scrutiny of the violence intensified—specifically
with regard to a wave of massacres of civilians in the Algerian countryside—the
question of the press's ability to fulfill its role in documenting
one of the region's most lethal conflicts has become more urgent than
Based upon our investigations in Algeria, CPJ recommends that the
- Guarantee the right of journalists to "seek, receive, and impart
information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,"
as stipulated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human
- Initiate efforts to locate and bring to safety "disappeared" journalists
Djamel Eddine Fahassi and Aziz Bouabdallah, who were apprehended
by men presumed to be security agents on May 7, 1995, and April
12, 1997, respectively. Launch an investigation to determine the
whereabouts of missing journalists Muhammad Hassaine* and Kaddour
- Conduct a thorough and transparent independent investigation into
the assassinations of journalists since 1993 and ensure that those
responsible are swiftly brought to justice;
- Encourage and facilitate the creation of private printing services
for newspapers, and in the interim, establish clear guidelines governing
all facets of the business relationship between newspapers and state-owned
- End the state monopoly of the distribution of advertising by state-owned
companies to newspapers, and ensure that any future privatization
of advertising distribution is free of government influence;
- End the legal harassment of journalists and newspapers through
the use of criminal defamation or other statutes to prosecute newspapers
for their publication of news and opinion;
- Abolish provisions of the draft information code, now before parliament,
which directly threaten the right of journalists to free expression.
These include articles 4, 12, 21, 50, 51, 75, 81, and 82;
- State publicly that the Algerian government recognizes its duty
under internationally recognized norms of free expression to ensure
media pluralism, including the dissemination of a diversity of views,
even if these views are opposed to or critical of prevailing policies;
- Permit newspapers banned by decree or under emergency law to resume
- End restrictions on foreign journalists working in Algeria, including
the use of mandatory escorts, and facilitate the process of obtaining
visas for journalists wishing to work in Algeria.
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Following bread riots and political unrest that swept the country in
October 1988, the government initiated a process of wide-reaching political
reform, opening the door for the emergence of private newspapers. In
1989, President Chadli Benjedid championed a new constitution—adopted
by national referendum in February—legalizing political parties and
ending 27 years of one-party rule by the National Liberation Front (FLN).
In line with the political opening, the state ended its monopoly over
the media by authorizing and assisting in the creation of private print
media and ending government censorship.
In 1990, the first private newspapers appeared, and over the next two
years, dozens of daily and weekly publications in both French and Arabic
appeared, representing a wide array of political and social trends.
Specialized publications dealing with cultural issues and science emerged,
while party newspapers provided a platform for the country's nascent
multi-party system. Between 1990-1992, the Algerian media enjoyed a
freedom and vibrancy unparalleled in the Arab world, with newspapers
providing caustic criticism of public officials and government policy
while offering a diversity of opinion and analysis on a broad spectrum
of political, economic, and social issues. Although the state remained
in firm control of the broadcast media, radio and television expanded
their coverage, providing opportunities for the political opposition
to voice its criticisms, and spotlighting the social hardships faced
by ordinary Algerians.
The political turmoil and the outbreak of violence across the country
in 1992 signaled the decline of press freedom. As the social divide
between secular and Islamist widened, the press, too, became increasingly
polarized, openly taking sides on the army's move to deprive the FIS
of its almost certain electoral victory. Newspapers and journalists
soon came under attack from the state. Initially, the clampdown focused
on FIS organs such as the weeklies Al-Mounqidh and Al-Forqane,
which were permanently closed in March 1992. Other Islamist
publications like the weekly Al-Balagh, which was sympathetic
to the FIS and had criticized the coup, met similar fates. Along with
the closure of publications, journalists were arrested and charged with
a host of offenses ranging from "spreading false information" to "endangering
state security" for their published calls to the army not to shoot at
demonstrators and their condemnation of the military's intervention
in the elections.
The clampdown on news coverage gradually extended to independent Arabic
publications which had been critical of the state, as well as to the
largely Francophone secular press which had predominantly supported
the suppression of the Islamists. Newspapers were suspended and
reporters endured similar repression for attempting to report on political
unrest. After the assassination of President Muhammad Boudiaf
in June 1992, state repression of the press intensified. A new state
of emergency decree was brought into force on August 11, authorizing
authorities to suspend or close any institution—including the media—whose
"activities endanger public order and security."
In the ensuing years, the state clamped down on news coverage of the
conflict. In June 1994, an inter-ministerial decree banned all reporting
on political violence except for information provided by the official
Algerian Press Service (APS). Violators of the decree were subject to
prosecution under a variety of provisions of the information code and
the penal code. The decree was accompanied by "recommendations" to newspapers
for the presentation and layout of security-related information with
the aim of downplaying violence and portraying the Islamist opposition
in a negative light. In February 1996, authorities established "reading
committees" at the state-run printing houses to ensure that newspapers'
coverage of the conflict conformed to state accounts.
As the state tightened its grip on independent reporting, another, more
sinister threat emerged. On May 26, 1993, Tahar Djaout, editor
of the cultural weekly Ruptures, was shot outside his home near
Algiers and died several days later. The attack marked the beginning
of a three-year assassination campaign. So-called "black lists" with
the names of journalists singled out for death were reportedly circulated
Some journalists and other observers believe that many if not most of
the assassinations were the work of the extremist Armed Islamic Group
(Groupe Islamique Arme, or GIA), in apparent response to what it viewed
as the press's complicity with the state in the war against Islamists.
Other journalists, however, suspect the state's involvement in some
of the murders, although no concrete evidence has yet emerged to support
this claim. "Some journalists believe that the political and financial
Mafia killed a number of journalists and not the terrorists," said the
editor of a leading daily newspaper. "[Le Matin columnist] Said
Mekbel for example wrote daily on corruption and the Mafia. You can't
underestimate the role of terrorists but many are convinced." Further
arousing suspicions, authorities to date have failed to bring any of
those responsible for the murders to justice and have refused any independent
inquiry into the killings. As the murders mounted, dozens of journalists
fled the country, while those remaining took refuge in state-run hotels
under armed guard, living and working in constant fear.
While the violence against journalists has subsided considerably, hundreds
still live under armed guard in state-run facilities like the Al-Manar—an
outdated and dreary hotel in the Algiers suburb of Sidi Faraj. The tiny,
sparsely furnished rooms are crowded, often accommodating several journalists
or family members. The daily threat of assassination led some
journalists to drug or alcohol addiction. One journalist working in
the state broadcast media told CPJ, "Journalists would take pills and
get drunk to cope. Some of my friends have become addicted to alcohol
and sleeping pills."
While many journalists admit that the security situation in the
capital has improved, few have the means to relocate to flats in safe
neighborhoods. "Now there is a social aspect," said a journalist living
with his wife and child at the Al-Manar. "those who have flats can go
back. But we don't have an apartment."
Over the past six years—due in considerable measure to a concerted effort
by the authorities to eradicate newspapers critical of the abrogation
of the 1992 election and other human rights abuses—the private press
has become increasingly accommodationist, supporting the state in the
battle against Islamism. Most newspapers reject the idea of dialogue
between the combatants, and exclude the viewpoints and concerns of the
Arabo-Islamist trend in society. Independent Arabic-language papers
such as Al-Wajh al-Akhar, Essah-Afa, Ennour, Al-Djazair
al-Youm, and Hiwar—with an estimated combined circulation
in the hundreds of thousands—were closed by decree between 1992 and
1995. "All of the journalists who were opposing the regime were eliminated,"
commented one columnist.
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Since the emergence of private newspapers, the state has controlled
printing and the supply of paper through its ownership of the country's
four printing houses. Authorities have used this leverage to suspend
outspoken newspapers and place economic pressure on publications that
have reported on sensitive political topics, or have adopted editorial
lines that are critical of the state. Since 1993, state printers have
arbitrarily refused services to newspapers without explanation or
by invoking the contentious issue of debt.
Most recently, in October 1998, the state printer forced the month-long
closure of two leading dailies, the French-language El-Watan
and Le Matin, citing outstanding debts. Five other newspapers
ceased publication to protest what they described as a politically
motivated attack by the printer, leaving the country's newsstands
without the leading newspapers until the dispute was resolved in early
November. (Le Matin was able to resume publishing through the
temporary services of a private printer on November 14. Eventually
on December 22, it was able to return to its original printer after
reaching an arrangement to repay its debt.)
The printer's move followed the papers' sustained criticism of two
government officials—Gen. Muhammad Betchine, a former advisor to President
Liamine Zeroual, and former Minister of Justice Muhammad Adami. Both
papers had reported that Betchine and Adami were involved in
massive corruption and abuse of power. The two officials resigned
in October in what journalists claimed as a victory for press freedom.
To some journalists, the closure of El-Watan and Le Matin
demonstrated the state's adoption of new, subtler approaches
to censoring newspapers, replacing harsher tactics used in the early
years of the conflict. "The government can no longer afford to carry
out heavy administrative censorship on the newspapers because of strong
international pressure against that," says Omar Belhouchet, El-Watan's
In fact, the suspensions are only the most recent examples of the
practice of closure over the issue of debt, now aggressively targeting
leading publications as well as opposition papers. Between 1993-1996,
similar actions forced several papers off newsstands; most of them
had advocated reconciliation to end the civil conflict or had reported
on government human rights abuses. Publishers and lawyers say that
while debts are a fact of life for newspapers, the printers are selective
in demanding payment, and usually exact impossible terms.
The state printer also has adopted more arbitrary measures. In another
recent case, the state printer, in July 1998, refused to provide services
to the newly established weekly El-Borhane, a bilingual French
and Arabic weekly described by one of its founders as representing
the Islamist viewpoint. After waiting nearly two years for its license,
El-Borhane received permission to publish in 1998. But the
paper's assigned printer, El Moudjahid, refused to produce it. El-Borhane
printed four issues in June and July after some bureaucratic maneuvering
in which it was able to make arrangements with another state printer.
But before the publication of the fifth issue, the printer, Societe
d'Impression d'Alger (SIA), informed the paper's management that it
could no longer service the paper and that it would have to return
to El Moudjahid. Since then, El Moudjahid has refused to print the
paper. El-Borhane's editors believe that it has been kept off
the market because of its Islamist perspective and support for dialogue
and reconciliation between the combatants in Algeria's civil war.
Efforts by publishers to set up private printing facilities have been
met with official opposition. In 1992, the dailies El-Watan
and Le Soir d'Algerie failed in their bid to establish a printing
facility when authorities refused to register a plot of land on which
the facility would be built. They also were denied a bank loan for
the project in what they described as direct pressure from the government
of then-Prime Minister Belaid Abdel Salam. Again, in 1996, the Algerian
government rejected a funding proposal by UNESCO for a private printing
press on the grounds that the move infringed on the country's sovereignty.
Meeting with CPJ representatives on October 27, Communications and
Culture Minister Hamraoui reaffirmed his government's stated commitment,
made in March to the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) in Algiers,
to allow the establishment of private printing presses. Despite these
verbal assurances, owners and publishers remain wary of embarking
on such a venture, citing financial risk and the lack of specific
guarantees from the state.
The state also uses its control over the distribution of public-sector
advertising—a main source of revenue for the press in Algeria's largely
state-owned economy—to exert economic pressure on outspoken newspapers.
The monopoly—reinstated by the government in September 1992—is exercised
through L'Agence Nationale d'Edition et de Publicite (ANEP), a state
body responsible for overseeing the purchase of newspaper advertising.
ANEP has pursued a systematic policy of discrimination against several
private papers. Newspapers that are both beneficiaries and
victims of ANEP agree that its current practices are unfair and arbitrary.
In 1998, the government had submitted a bill to parliament that would
allow for the privatization of advertising distribution. At year's
end, however, no action had been taken.
Like its control of advertising and its monopoly on printing, the
state's hold on the supply and price of paper has proved economically
detrimental to publications. Printing houses have forced both private
and state-owned newspapers to pay high prices for newsprint and hold
publications hostage to paper shortages. El-Watan has asked
the printing house for permission to import its own paper, but the
request was turned down.
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Algerian authorities use a variety of legal weapons against journalists.
The Information Code of April 1990, which journalists dubbed the "second
penal code," prescribes harsh penalties for vaguely defined offenses.
Under Article 86, for example, journalists face 5 to 10 years in prison
for the deliberate publication of "false or misleading information
capable of harming national order or state security." Over the years,
authorities have invoked provisions of the penal code and other statutes
to punish independent journalists in the courts.
Omar Belhouchet estimates that between 1993 and 1997 authorities initiated
30 prosecutions against him for publishing security-related information
or articles implicating government officials in alleged corruption.
Several of the pending cases force him to appear in court two or three
times a week. Another editor, Le Matin's Muhammad Benchicou,
estimates that more than two dozen prosecutions have been brought
against him for the paper's published work.
Although new prosecutions against journalists for their coverage of
security matters have nearly come to a halt, old cases continue to
work their way through the courts. And despite Hamraoui's promises
in March 1998 to the World Association of Newspapers that journalists
would no longer be arrested or prosecuted for their work, there have
been at least two criminal prosecutions since then.
On September 30, Muhammad Benchicou was convicted of criminal defamation
in a suit initiated by L'Authentique—a paper with financial
links to former presidential adviser Muhammad Betchine. The suit stemmed
from a column he wrote in August titled "Call Back Your Dogs, Mr.
Betchine," in which Benchicou had referred to journalists at L'Authentique
as "harem girls." The remark culminated several weeks of harsh exchanges
between the two papers over the case of Ali Ben Saad, an Algerian
student leader who was sentenced to death in absentia for alleged
terrorism. The student's only real offense appeared to have been articles
critical of Betchine which he had previously published in Algerian
newspapers. On October 3, Benchicou was given a four-month suspended
prison sentence and assessed 18,000,000 dinars (US$300,000) in damages
in a trial that moved through the courts with remarkable speed. The
fine was reportedly the highest ever levied against an Algerian journalist.
Although Benchicou has appealed the decision, forced payment of the
fine could potentially put the paper Le Matin out of business.
In September, authorities launched a defamation investigation of the
daily Le Jeune Independent for allegedly "humiliating organized
institutions." In an August interview with Fatma Merzouk, head of
a women's organization affiliated with the Socialist Forces Front
(FFS), Merzouk had criticized the Algerian army for failing to come
to the aid of civilians during a recent massacre near the town of
Relizane, and also charged it with "economic crimes," or corruption.
Shafiq Abdi, the paper's editor, and Said Tissegouine, its reporter
in the city of Tizi Ouzou who conducted the interview,
face imprisonment if tried and convicted of the charge. Abdi complained
that he was only informed of the case after he appeared in court on
September 22 in connection with another case against his paper.
At this writing, Algeria's parliament has a new draft information
code and is expected to review it in the coming months. The draft
bill contains several reforms, such as the abolition of imprisonment
as a penalty for journalists who commit publications offenses (criminal
defamation, however, still exists under the penal code), and provisions
for the privatization of the broadcast media. But several provisions
empower authorities to stifle independent journalism. For example,
journalists convicted of defamation or libel face fines up to 500,000
dinars (US$8,200) for each offense, while those who publish information
that breaches "national security," "national unity," or "the constitutional
rights and freedoms of the citizen" are subject to the same fines.
"We oppose the substitution of penalizing press violations with monetary
fines," says Khaled Bourayou, a lawyer who represents several journalists.
"This is very dangerous and can have damaging effects on newspapers.
For example, Omar Belhouchet, who is charged in a number of cases,
would be forced to pay thousands of dollars."
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Despite some notable examples of greater boldness in recent reporting
on certain human rights and corruption stories, critics point to the
conspicuous absence of reporting about issues of central importance
to the civil conflict, specifically, the activities of the Islamist
opposition; attempts at dialogue between the government and Islamists;
corruption in the military; criticism of the 1992 coup; and state
human rights violations.
Fear, self-censorship, ideological prejudices, and the lack of sources
contribute to the absence of coverage on sensitive topics related
to the political strife. "The reading committees took responsibility
for not reporting news; now the journalists are responsible," a journalist
working for an Arabic language daily told CPJ in October. "Now censorship
is greater. Journalists are afraid of everything."
Stories questioning the status of imprisoned FIS leaders, such as
Ali Bel Hadj, who has been in secret detention for three years, are
taboo. Efforts at dialogue between the state and the FIS, meanwhile,
have also been the subject of sporadic self-censorship in recent
years—a result, say some, of shifting support in military circles
for the idea. According to some journalists, newsroom censorship
on the issue at certain papers increased markedly after 1996.
Journalists complain of the dearth of information about the Islamist
opposition, which stems in part from the fact that most Islamist leaders
are imprisoned or under house arrest. "It's nearly impossible to get
good information with regard to the FIS," observed a journalist with
the daily Quotidien d'Oran. In fact, while some information
is available, "journalists don't want information from that side,"
he adds. The limited contacts of journalists among the Islamists also
play a role in the lack of coverage.
Self-censorship, whether out of fear or political motivation, is pervasive
and makes for an often one-sided depiction of events. A former journalist
at the daily La Tribune told CPJ how the paper increasingly
resorted to internal censorship after it resumed publication in late
1996 following a six-month suspension for publication of a political
cartoon depicting the Algerian flag. In early 1997, the paper's director
censored an article by the journalist on the trial of men accused
of assassinating a government official. "In my article I said that
not all of those being tried were terrorists—only 2 or 3 were actually
responsible," she said, noting that many of the defendants were teenagers
arrested in a police dragnet. "But the director of the paper refused
to publish this viewpoint." Another journalist who left the paper
in August 1998 noted that "journalists are often reminded not to write
pieces which could provoke the authorities' anger and the suspension
of the newspaper."
Editors avoid or censor coverage of human rights abuses such
as torture, abductions, problems with the justice system, and abuses
by state-supported self-defense militias. While newspapers often report
on the findings of international human rights organizations, independent
investigative reporting on these subjects rarely makes it into print.
"I think the biggest difficulty is not getting information but it's
publishing it," said a journalist formerly with La Tribune
and Le Matin.
Some editors blame their papers' lack of coverage of human rights
abuses on the dearth of sources. According to the editor of a leading
daily paper, authorities continue to refuse journalists access to
prisons, and information on one of the country's biggest tragedies—the
"disappeared"—is scant. Lawyers for the "disappeared" disagree; according
to one, since 1991 newspapers have refused to publish information
he provided them on human rights cases, particularly those of the
"disappeared." He noted that coverage of the issue during the visit
in July by a high-profile United Nations panel, which was sent to
gather information on political violence, characterized him
as a lawyer for "terrorists."
Many editors in the mainstream press echo the regime's dismissive
stance on state human rights abuses. "Most [international and human
rights organizations] support terrorists," said the editor in chief
of a leading daily newspaper. "Why do these organizations talk more
about human rights than the papers? It's because their information
comes from terrorists."
In April, May, and June, Algerian newspapers wrote about the mayor
of the Western town of Relizane and another local official from the
nearby town of Jdiouia who were implicated along with militiamen
in summary executions of civilians and other abuses against citizens.
The coverage marked the first time that the media reported on the
involvement of the controversial state-supported militias in atrocities.
But many journalists and observers are skeptical that the press's
treatment of the incident represents a barometer for press freedom.
"I have a file on the victims of Relizane here in the office—about
20 [individual] files on the victims of violence, yet the press has
not [previously] reported on it," says a lawyer who has documented
the cases of many of the Relizane victims. Similarly, in the summer
and fall of 1998, there was considerable coverage of the plight of
families of the "disappeared" after they organized public demonstrations
that attracted thousands of Algerians. Several journalists believe
that editors got an official green light on the stories because the
Algerian government felt immense pressure from the United Nations
and international NGOs on its human rights record. "This is a development
of the last six months," said a reporter with a French-language daily.
"First the families of the disappeared held demonstrations ...
and the issue became prominent and impossible to ignore."
and the Ability to Report
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The state's clampdown on reporting developed gradually after 1992
and was a prelude to more overt censorship measures. According to
journalists, censorship increased in 1995 and 1996 in the run-up to
the presidential elections, when the state's aim was to reinforce
its claim that terrorism in Algeria had abated.
But in late 1996 and 1997, when large-scale massacres of civilians
were being committed in the Algerian countryside, it became increasingly
difficult for the state to censor the news coverage. The press began
covering the violence with greater regularity, while avoiding the
sensitive issue of army or security forces' casualties. "The publishers
didn't comply with the instructions given by the Minister of Interior,"
says Belhouchet, referring to the June 1994 inter-ministerial decree
that banned all independent reporting on political violence. "If we
implement these instructions we cease to be newspapers. This cannot
be done. As a result some newspapers were suspended."
Today, estimates Belhouchet, his newspaper relies on the official
Algerian Press Service (APS) for about 5 percent of its published
news on the security situation. According to another editor, reporting
on security matters in 1998 has become routine. "Journalists now go
to sites of bombings, for example, and bring back the information
and publish. Before they would be closed for publishing it," observed
a correspondent for El-Watan.
But fear continues to deter investigative reporting in the field.
"We still sign our articles with pseudonyms and do not publish our
own photographs in the newspapers," one reporter told CPJ in late
1997. "There are no guarantees that the assassinations will not resume
in the future."
Although authorities have abolished formal censorship and the suspension
of papers has slowed, the experience of state reprisal has had a lasting
effect on journalists. Several reporters described examples of security-related
information they had obtained but were fearful of submitting to their
editors. One reporter who covers security affairs for a daily newspaper
told of information he had obtained in October 1998 about the security
forces' apparent extra-judicial execution of suspected Islamists in
Tipaza, 45 miles west of Algiers. The official news agency APS had
reported that security forces killed a group of armed Islamists after
they had feigned surrender and opened fire on the security forces.
Eyewitnesses, however, told the journalist a different story—that
security forces opened fire on the building, killing the men inside
without resistance. "I censored myself," he said, explaining his decision
not to submit the story to his editor. "Anyone who attempts to publish
this sort of information could be in danger. You could be kidnapped
or ‘disappeared.' There are many examples like this where a journalist
gets information but knows that he can't publish it."
Journalists tend to rely heavily on security forces as sources for
information in the field, although authorities are often reluctant
to divulge information. "Journalists covering security issues are
always the last to arrive on the scene. They often share the same
official pieces of information," said one reporter for a daily. "Relations
with the security forces are based on a give-and-take formula. You
need to socialize with security guys and buy them drinks if you want
to get bits of information from them." Other journalists simply feel
more comfortable dealing directly with authorities. A leading security
reporter for a French-language daily admitted, "While doing my job,
it is easier for me to get on with and communicate with the security
forces than ordinary citizens."
But journalists complain that authorities keep them in the dark. Security
forces or the army regularly provide false information on the number
of victims at massacres and other scenes of violence. Journalists
are often forced to seek alternative sources to confirm death tolls.
"I am a former student at a medical school and I know people working
at hospitals," said a security reporter. "For instance, a friend of
mine working at an emergency service told me that 26 people died at
Bab al-Oued following a bomb explosion. The official news agency reported
that only 17 people died and that was not true."
Some information, such as the result of counter-insurgency operations
and the identities of rebel casualties, is impossible to obtain without
the help of authorities. Given the danger and inaccessibility of most
operations which take place outside the capital, journalists are forced
to rely almost exclusively on the army for details of fatalities.
And it is virtually impossible to independently confirm the identities
of the thousands who have been killed by security forces.
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From August 1997 throughout 1998, a series of large-scale massacres
were committed in several villages and hamlets outside of Algiers.
Hundreds of men, women, and children were decapitated or had their
throats slit. Others were hacked to death with axes. Authorities blamed
armed Islamist groups. While such groups almost certainly committed
much of the carnage, observers speculate that the state may have been
involved in some of the atrocities. Official silence on the details
of the violence and the state's refusal to allow an international
investigation into the matter has further raised suspicions.
Despite formidable obstacles, Algerian journalists have actively covered
massacres, traveling to the countryside at great risk to interview
survivors and make first-hand assessments. While suggesting official
involvement in the atrocities is taboo, newspapers have criticized
the authorities for their failure to protect civilians and intervene
in some attacks.
Reporters have described harassment by security forces in their attempts
to view massacre sites. In other cases, reporters have recounted how
security forces monitored their activities and spoke of incidents
in which authorities produced impostors as witnesses for them to interview.
Some Algerian journalists who cover security issues said that following
mounting international pressure on the Algerian government, authorities
eased restrictions on journalists' access to massacre sites. But harassment
by police and security forces persists. "When you go to the scene
of a massacre, access is very difficult, and when the authorities
realize you are a journalist they make you feel unwelcome," said one
reporter. Another reporter said that after massacres, security forces
generally "don't want you to have first-hand statements from witnesses."
Ultimately, however, the answers to questions concerning possible
state complicity or involvement of government-backed militias in massacres
remain in the hands of the state. "Official information on the atrocities
remains scarce," writes Lahouari Addi. "The perpetrators are never
taken alive before the courts. Since there is no freedom of the press,
the media confirm the version put forward by the authorities. The
army has no intention of letting an international inquest try to uncover
Despite the doggedness of some reporters, detailed information from
massacre cites remains scarce. Reporting often focuses on the trauma
experienced by survivors and lacks depth and probing detail as to
who may be responsible. Fear among survivors is often cited
as a reason for sketchy reporting. "You have a situation where 90
percent of it is fear. They have no faith in the media. They are scared.
The people are hostages to this violence and as a journalist you think
you are a target," said one Algerian political observer who has closely
monitored the violence.
Some journalists assert that the only way to conclusively determine
who is behind the massacres is through serious investigative journalism—which,
under present conditions, is virtually impossible. Said one editor:
"If you want to find out what's happening in Bentalha, you must send
a journalist for a month and that's not technically possible. It's
an area that's controlled by the militias and the army. You cannot
access information. We have testimony that people who were brought
[before journalists] weren't living there before ... A journalist
would have to go in anonymously. It's nearly impossible."
According to another editor, "It is technically impossible to do our
jobs. So we try to compare information maybe two to three weeks after
the incident, but we really can't do investigations in the field."
The same journalist cites a report that appeared in the French press
in early 1998 alleging that authorities had executed Islamist prisoners
in a village. "If I try to investigate this, it will take four to
six months and I will need to get special permission from the authorities
and find [witnesses]. You can't investigate this matter."
Limitations on the foreign media deepen the murkiness of coverage
from Algeria. To date, only one Western news agency—Agence France-Presse
(AFP)—maintains an Algeria bureau. As a result, foreign media rely
heavily on local accounts. According to a BBC correspondent, "this
has made it increasingly difficult to know what is going on inside
Algeria. News organizations are forced to take unconfirmed reports
from Algerian newspapers at face value, even if they do it with a
touch of skepticism." Even AFP's staff in Algeria attributes much
of its news to local papers.
Foreign journalists who visit Algeria encounter government prohibitions
on travel around the country without escorts, which severely inhibits
investigative reporting. Although authorities have at times described
these escorts as optional, they ignore journalists' requests to go
it alone. In 1997, security agents detained Newsweek reporter
Mark Dennis overnight after he ditched his escort to interview Islamic
Salvation Army commander Ahmed Benaicha in the field. Dennis was subsequently
expelled from the country for evading his escort.
When foreign reporters travel to massacre sites, they do so under
military convoy and in the presence of security forces. One American
journalist described the procedure as "preposterous in terms of reporting."
In further restricting access for the foreign media, Algerian authorities
have denied visas to reporters in apparent response to what they have
deemed their unfavorable coverage of events. Several European correspondents,
such as Liberation's José Garçon, have failed
to secure visas despite repeated requests over the years. Since 1993,
authorities have ignored numerous visa requests by Garçon,
who has covered Algeria for more than 10 years for her paper. The
journalist says that she simply stopped requesting permission for
the last two years; however, in 1997, she was formally denied a visa
without explanation when requesting to travel to Algiers with a French
politician. Requests for visas from other journalists, who have no
reason to suspect official anger, have gone unanswered. During
his meeting with CPJ representatives, Communications and Culture Minister
Hamraoui stated that "only four or five [foreign] journalists" who
he declined to name were banned from traveling to Algeria because
"they don't come to Algeria for professional reasons."
The press holds a crucial position for an understanding of the Algerian
conflict, in which information has proven to be a precious commodity.
Beyond overt government constraints, the press is hostage to fear,
which leads to such pernicious restrictions as self-censorship. The
prevailing state of fear among journalists will dissipate only when
respect for human rights and the rule of law take hold in Algerian
society. The development of democratic institutions is the critical
component to greater freedom for the press, since it is the state
itself that holds the key to unraveling the many mysteries of Algeria's
CPJ previously reported that our research had confirmed 59 journalists
killed for their work in Algeria since May 1993. The
change to 58 is the result of new information received during our fact-finding
mission about the disappearance of Mohamed Hassaine, a reporter with
the daily Alger Républicain.
Hassaine was kidnapped by unknown assailants on March 1, 1994. Our original
determination that Hassaine had been murdered was based on his newspaper
colleagues' reports of the discovery of Hassaine's decapitated body.
During interviews in Algiers in October, however, we learned that Hassaine's
body was in fact never found, and that since his disappearance there
has beenno circumstantial or material evidence confirming his death.
We therefore have reclassified Mohamed Hassaine as missing.
Also, it should be noted that CPJ's figure of 58 killed does not include
the several other non-journalists working in the media sector who have
been killed since 1993.
As of December 31, 1998, CPJ has
documented 123 attacks on the
press in Algeria since 1992. Click here to read narrative cases
histories from CPJ's press freedom database.
Campagna is CPJ program coordinator for the Middle East
and North Africa.
Back to Top
"Disappeared" Journalists: The Cases of Djamel Eddine Fahassi
and Aziz Bouabdallah
by Joel Campagna
"It was nearly 11:30 p.m. on April 12,
1997, when three plain-clothes policemen erupted into my house,"
said Muhammad Bouabdallah, his aged face becoming more strained
with each word. "They were nicely dressed, and armed. One of them
put his gun to the temple of my head before dragging Aziz out
with them. Others pushed my wife into the sitting room to keep
her out of their way. Then they disappeared."
Since that incident, which took place at their home in the Chevalier
section of Algiers, both Muhammad and his wife Shafia have not
seen their son Aziz, at the time a 22-year-old reporter with the
Arabic-language daily Al-Alam al-Siyassi. Aziz Bouabdallah
is one of four Algerian journalists considered missing by the
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) as of January 1999. Mohamed
Hassaine, a correspondent for the daily Alger Republicain,
was taken from his home in Larbatache near Blida on March 1, 1994.
To date, there has been no information on his whereabouts. And
Kaddour Bouselham, a reporter with the state-owned newspaper Horizons,
was kidnapped in Hacine near Mascara in western Algeria on October
29, 1994. According to colleagues at the newspaper, another man
abducted with Bouselham and later released said that both men
were taken by a group of Islamist militants. An unconfirmed report
published in El Watan on July 1, 1998, reported that a
"repentant" militant told authorities that Bouselham had been
murdered by the GIA emir in Mascara, Slimani Lahbib.
But it is the case of Aziz Bouabdallah and that of Djamel Eddine
Fahassi, a reporter with the government-run French-language radio
station Alger Chaine III -- which most strongly suggest that the
"disappearances" were the work of state security forces. Algerian
authorities deny knowledge of their arrest.
didn't search our flat and they did not take anything," recalled
Muhammad Bouabdallah of his son's abduction. "One of them was
nearly 1.78 m high and was wearing a mustache like Clark Gable,
an English trench coat, and shining shoes. Another was about 1.90
high, with his hair ruffled and was wearing a military rain coat
and carrying a sophisticated weapon." According to the family,
after the intruders confirmed that the young man's name was Aziz,
they grabbed him, put his hands behind his back and pushed him
out the door. "They were so quick that I could not see clearly
the car they drove," he said.
An article published in the daily El-Watan a few days after
his abduction reported that Aziz was in police custody, according
to police sources, and that his release was imminent. The Bouabdallahs
stress that the police have not refuted the El-Watan story.
They, like hundreds of other Algerians in search of missing loved
ones, have looked tirelessly for clues, contacting the police,
the National Guard, and the gendarmerie, only to be told by all
authorities that they have no information. The family has also
written to President Zeroual and to the ministers of interior
and justice -- to no avail. Kemal Rezzag-Bara, president of the
semi-official National Human Rights Monitoring Body (Observatoire
des droits de l'homme, or ONDH) which reports to the president,
has told the family that Bouabdallah was probably kidnapped by
Both family and colleagues express bewilderment about the motive
for Bouabdallah's disappearance. They say that he was not politically
active. "Aziz is a poet and a philosopher. He is a very quiet
young man and very reserved," says Shafia Bouabdallah, holding
back tears. "He has been studying law for three years at the Faculty
of Law in Ben Aknoun. He wanted to become a judge."
Like the Bouabdallahs, the family of Djamel Eddine Fahassi has
endured fear and uncertainty. Fahassi was a reporter for the government-run
French-language radio station Alger Chaine III and a contributor
to several Algerian newspapers, including the weekly La Nation,
and Al-Forqane, a weekly organ of the Islamic Salvation
Front that was banned in March 1992. Authorities deny any knowledge
of his arrest.
Fahassi was last seen on May 6, 1995, near his home in the al-Harrache
district of Algiers. His wife Safia has had to rely on second-hand
accounts from eyewitnesses who are fearful to talk publicly. On
the day of his disappearance, Fahassi had left a neighborhood
restaurant where he had been with friends at about 2:30 p.m. Eyewitnesses
told his wife that four men with walkie-talkies accosted him and
pushed him into a waiting car. "I was told that he was stopped
by a tall person wearing very handsome clothes -- a jacket and
classical pants," Safia described. "Then he called him by his
name. He said to him 'You are Fahassi' and showed him something,
possibly a [identification] card. I was told that he resisted."
Fahassi, who was 41 years old at the time of his "disappearance,"
had previously been a target of authorities. He had been arrested
twice. The first time, in late 1991, followed the publication
of an article he wrote for Al-Forqane likening a security
forces' raid on an Algiers neighborhood to a pogrom. He was convicted
on January 1, 1992, by the Blida military court of disseminating
false information, attacking a state institution, and disseminating
information that could harm national unity. He received a one-year
suspended sentence and was released, having served five months
in custody. A few months later, on February 17, 1992, he was arrested
for allegedly attacking state institutions and spreading false
information and transferred to the Ain Salah Detention Center
in southern Algeria, where hundreds of Islamist suspects had been
interned in the months following the cancellation of elections
in January 1992. Fahassi was released on March 29 -- the result,
says Safia Fahassi, of a vocal campaign in the press waged by
Fahassi has endured authorities' silence in her efforts to find
her husband. She has had only a few unconfirmed leads to follow,
such as an anonymous letter sent to the weekly La Nation in August
1995 by a supposed detainee at Algiers' Chateauneuf detention
center who wrote that Djamel was being held at the notorious facility.
Beyond that, however, there have been only rumors. Some press
accounts have alleged that Fahassi is in fact alive and well.
A much-assailed October 1995 story published in the state paper
Horizons claimed that Fahassi had staged his disappearance
and was living in comfort in a Mediterranean country. Many journalists,
infuriated by the article, dismissed it as nothing more than state
propaganda. And most recently, a journalist working with Fahassi's
former employer Alger Chaine III told CPJ of a "colleague at the
radio station" who had "recently received a call from him in Italy."
However, after requests from CPJ, the journalist failed to produce
the alleged colleague.
Many journalists, while noting advocacy efforts on behalf of Aziz
Bouabdallah and Djamel Fahassi, say the press hasn't done enough
to pressure authorities to publicize their findings on the two
"Whoever kidnapped Fahassi, we condemn it," the director of one
state-owned newspaper said, "whether it was the security forces
or the armed groups. Kidnapping journalists is unacceptable. It's
fascist behavior." The same journalist was also critical of the
private press's lack of a sustained campaign on behalf of their
missing colleagues, particularly Aziz Bouabdallah. "Even his paper
stopped talking about him," he said. "I believe if there were
a campaign on this issue by journalists you will get results.
We wonder why the private press is so silent about this."
Independent or Partisan Press?
by Joel Campagna
The young man raced into Omar Belhouchet's office and, without
uttering a word, handed the newspaper director a wrinkled piece
of paper. As Belhouchet quietly examined it, his eyes opened wider
until he calmly announced with a hint of satisfaction: "The Minister
of Justice has resigned."
Justice Minister Muhammad Adami, for weeks the subject of allegations
that he had grossly abused the power of his office, had stepped
down. Belhouchet's influential daily, El-Watan, had
published the charge that reportedly precipitated his resignation:
his alleged responsibility for the suffocation death of 32 prisoners
in June 1997. Just days after Adami's resignation, another high-ranking
official -- Muhammad Betchine, an influential adviser to President
Liamine Zeroual -- also resigned under duress. Like Adami, Betchine's
name had been splattered across the front pages of newspapers
for months, in stories describing his alleged shady business deals
and abuses of power. A story published just before his resignation
had fingered him in the torture of detainees after Algeria's 1998
While many journalists were quick to hail the resignations as
evidence of a newly emboldened press ready to fulfill its duty
as government watchdog, critics viewed the events with considerable
cynicism. For them, the press' coverage of the Adami and Betchine
scandals, spearheaded by several French-language papers, was the
product of internal power struggles in the military, designed
to weaken President Zeroual and his inner circle. Powerful people
within the regime leaked information and offered assurances against
reprisal to those newspapers that picked it up.
"The Betchine coverage is an example of the intervention of politics
over professionalism," explained one former editor, echoing the
sentiments of other journalists. "Betchine has been known for
a long time as a person who is part of the [political and economic]
Mafia. It was never prohibited before to criticize him, but we
were afraid that there would be a swift response." The same editor
had heard similar allegations against Betchine while on the staff
of another newspaper, but had never been able to get the details.
"If I had had information, though, I never would have published
it without guarantees [that there would be no reprisals]," the
For many Algerian journalists, such words have a deep resonance
in a country where lawlessness, engendered not only by rebels
but also the state, has become a main feature of the country's
brutal, eight-year civil war. Fear of reprisal is often cited
by reporters and editors as a principal deterrent to covering
sensitive issues such as corruption, especially that involving
high-level officials. "I believe my job is to try to shed light
on all murky dealings. But fear is hovering over a journalist's
head," remarked a reporter with the French-language daily Le
Juene Independent. "He might get killed and thrown into a
ditch. His death might be blamed on terrorists. So as long as
I don't feel protected and have assurances, I cannot investigate
corruption." Then how can the press's scrutiny of Muhammad Adami
and Muhammad Betchine be explained? The answers are many and the
Editors in chief and publishers of newspapers that had reported
extensively on both cases vehemently deny the accusations of political
meddling or partisanship, and contend that they were just doing
their jobs and reporting the news. Belhouchet, whose paper was
at the forefront of the exposés of Betchine and Adami,
rejects the arguments of critics, saying that the recent reporting
on corruption comes in response to recent government promises
of greater openness, such as those made in March 1998 to a visiting
delegation from the World Association of Newspapers. "Publishers
and journalists have tried to take the government at its word
and to increase their freedom," he said.
But other journalists remain unconvinced. For them, the Adami-Betchine
affair underscores the problem of what they call the "relative
freedom" of Algeria's press, where the boundaries of acceptable
journalism are ever-changing, often in sync with political jockeying
within the regime. "We are afraid of some issues like all papers,"
said one reporter working with a French-language daily. "If, for
example, I had information that (Chief of Staff) Gen. Lamari or
(police security chief Muhammad Medienne) Tewfiq were involved
in improper business dealings, it would be impossible for me to
write about it. But now with relation to Betchine, I can write
and publish an article because the balance of power has changed.
Do you see the boundaries of free expression in Algeria?"
Still other Algerian journalists regard these either/or explanations
as simplistic. "It's true that in some cases the directors of
newspapers have relations with the army or political personalities,"
said one former editor. "But there are many journalists who try
to be independent and some papers have a degree of independence."
An Algerian reporter working with a Western news agency offered
the following analysis about the independence of Algeria's press:
"In France, they say that there is a general behind
every paper. Of course, we can criticize ourselves when papers
remained silent when human rights violations are committed and
when extra-judicial executions are committed. El-Watan
is accused of being backed by generals, but it is a paper that
has interviewed people like(Workers Party leader Louissa) Hanoune
and (vocal human rights critic Ali Yehya) Abdennour and interviewed
people who signed the St. Egidio Agreement (the agreement reached
by opposition parties calling for a peaceful resolution to the
conflict). We can say that there is not enough investigative
reporting. Of course, the Algerian newspapers refrain from reporting
on certain subjects, but it's also a problem of not having enough
information and sources of information."
While it is difficult to measure the level of influence that military
and political officials wield over newspapers, the debate on the
topic within Algeria reveals the importance many journalists ascribe
to the issue. "The independent press has tried to preserve its
independence," said a reporter working with a French-language
publication. "All of the papers have a trend or ideology, but
this isn't only in Algeria."
by Joel Campagna
Since suspected Islamist militants began targeting journalists
for death in 1993, Algeria has been the most dangerous country
in the world to practice journalism this decade. Between May 1993
and August 1996, 58 editors and reporters were murdered; many
were gunned down, stabbed to death, or had their throats slit
by assailants while on the way to and from work. Others were kidnapped,
their bodies later found decapitated or disfigured.
Journalists talk openly of the period when fear gripped their
profession after suspected armed militants launched their lethal
campaign against the press. "I thought I was an anonymous journalist.
I didn't know that the list was so long," said Malika, a journalist
working in the state broadcast media, describing how she was informed
that police had discovered her name on a so-called "black list"-a
list carrying the names of individuals reportedly marked for death
by extremists. She, like many other Algerian journalists, eventually
took refuge in Paris in order to escape the violence and threats
on her life.
Armed Islamist militants are believed responsible for most of
the killings of journalists during the three year period. "Those
who fight by the pen shall die by sword," the militant Armed Islamic
Group (GIA) reportedly warned in a 1995 communique. The threat,
coupled with the deaths of tens of journalists by assassination,
has had a frightening resonance among Algerian journalists. Despite
the certain involvement of armed Islamists in the killings, many
Algerian journalists remain convinced that Algerian authorities
have been behind some of the assassinations. Answers to this question
remain elusive as the Algerian government has failed to prosecute
any individual responsible for the deaths of journalists and has
continually resisted independent international investigations
into the killings. Prominent journalists, like El Watan's Omar
Belhouchet have found themselves the targets of government-led
legal suits for their outspokeness on the topic. (Belhouchet was
convicted in November 1997 of "harming state institutions" and
sentenced to one year in prison for statements he made in 1995
to the French television stations TF1 and Canal Plus in which
he said: "There are journalists that embarrass the authorities.
I would not be surprised if tomorrow I found out that some of
my colleagues were murdered by men in power." )
Today, while the assassination campaign appears to be in recess-CPJ
has not recorded a case of a journalist murdered since August
1996-the horrors of the period 1993-1996 have had a lasting impact
on the lives of many journalists. "After the journalists were
being assassinated it was extremely tense," said Malika. "You
could see it in the eyes of your friend. Journalists would take
pills and get drunk to cope. Some of my friends have become addicted
to alcohol and sleeping pills."
Soon after the assassinations commenced, journalists flocked en
masse to state-run hotels such as the Mazafran Hotel in Zaralda
and the Al-Manar in the suburb of Sidi Faraj, where many remain
today under the protection of armed guards. The Al-Manar, a dreary,
outdated tourist hotel, is home to some 700 journalists who live
in cramped and barely furnished rooms, which sometimes house as
many as five people. Muhammad, a journalist working for the state-run
radio station Alger Chaine III, inhabits a small room in the hotel
along with his wife and 10-month old child. The tiny room is equipped
with a bed, a coffee table, a small portable television, and a
crib for their child. There is no heat. Muhammad's life centers
around the hotel: he is transported to work five days a week and
says he finds himself spending the remainder of his day at the
The state's continued housing of journalists like Muhammad at
the Al-Manar remains uncertain, especially at a time when both
the press and the government continue to boast how much the security
situation in the capital has improved and how "terrorism" has
become residual. Even today journalists speak of the increased
feelings of security-a result they contend of the overall disorganization
and weakness of the armed groups. "Now it's all over," says Malika.
"I go shopping where I live. I feel secure. The pressure and terrorism
has really subsided. Many agree, but some are still reluctant
to go home."
The reluctance stems from lingering fears of attack, but economics
also play a role. "Now there is a social aspect," said Mohammad
who is originally from the from Tizi Ouzou and moved to the Algiers
for work after living with his family. "Now those who have flats
can go back. But we don't have an apartment." For journalists
who earn meager salaries of about 10,000 dinars per month, it
is financially impossible for them to rent a flat in a "safe"
neighbor. "You need a decent salary to get a flat," he says. "In
popular neighborhoods you can get one but it's not safe."
Journalists remain as concerned as ever about the future of their
housing at the hotels. Last summer, an effort by the government
to relocate some 70 journalists from the Mazafran hotel was met
with furious opposition from journalists. The government had relocate
the journalists in order to refurbish the hotel in advance of
the Organization of African Unity summit to be held in Algiers
in 1999. Authorities offered the journalists alternative housing
at the Matares hotel, located in a tourist village in Tipaza several
miles further west of Algiers, but the journalists protested the
move, arguing that the new location would significantly jeopardize
their security because of its considerable distance from the capital
where most regularly commute to work. Four journalists went on
hunger strike for over three weeks until the government caved
in and provided them housing at the Al-Manar Hotel.
Despite their desperate bids to maintain their housing in state
run facilities, journalists are anything but content with their
living situation. They hope for a better future that will allow
them to resume their normal lives outside of the depressing confines
of the hotels. "I wouldn't like to stay here in this hotel," said
Muhammad. "These are not acceptable living conditions and I feel
I am losing precious time from my life."