Algeria Continues Muzzling Independent Online Media

It seems that Algerian news websites “Tout sur l’Algérie” (TSA) have been clearly shut down by the authorities. Both the Arabic and French online editions of TSA are inaccessible via Algérie Télécom, the country’s state-owned traditional Internet Service Provider, and via Mobilis, the state-owned mobile Internet provider, since 5 October.

Algérie Télécom, the service provider, has not explained the reasons for the blocking, while Communication Minister Djamel Kaouane denied the involvement of his department in any gagging media.

But TSA director Hamid Guemache has told RSF that the explanations provided by the authorities “are not convincing” and that he suspected a “political blockage.”

“The fact that TSA is only accessible via the state-owned Internet service providers suggests that it is being blocked for political reasons, because it criticizes the government,” RSF said. “We urge the competent authorities to do what is necessary to ensure a quick return to normality and to guarantee media pluralism.”

In its latest report, Amnesty International condemned the Algerian authorities for their continued restrictions on freedom of expression, association, assembly and religion.

The rights watchdog also denounced the prosecution of peaceful critics, including human rights defenders, in unfair trials and forced closure of media outlets, while impunity for past serious abuses continued to prevail.

In March, a court in Tlemcen convicted and fined Zoulikha Belarbi, a member of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH), for defamation and for “offending” the President and a public body, says Amnesty.

The charges related to her publishing a satirical collage on Facebook depicting President Bouteflika and senior officials. A six-month prison term was added to her sentence on appeal in December.

In June, the authorities arrested the director and the producer of the private Khabar Broadcasting Corporation and a Ministry of Communication official in connection with two popular satirical current affairs programs.
The three were detained for several weeks before a court sentenced them to suspended prison terms of between six months and one year for licensing irregularities.

According to AI, Algerian Gendarmes sealed the recording studios in July, forcing both shows off the air. Freelance journalist Mohamed Tamalt was also sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for “offending” the President and public institutions in comments he published on Facebook and in his blog about corruption and nepotism among leading officials.

The list of the victims also includes Hassan Bouras, a journalist and human rights activist, who was sentenced to one year in prison on charges of complicity in offending public officials and a public body after a private television station broadcast a film of him interviewing three people alleging police and judicial corruption.

 

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