Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Association Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’Etat civique, Tunis Centre for Press Freedom (CTLP) and NGOs have expressed solidarity with Hadda Hazem, editor of the Algerian newspaper Al-Fadjr, who is observing a hunger strike since Nov.13 in protest against his arbitrary detention.
Hazem, who had to suspend her hunger strike on November 20 for health reasons, accuses the Algerian authorities of strangling her Arabic-language newspaper financially and subjecting it to a “slow death.”
Al-Fadjr was deprived of state advertising, one of the main sources of income for the media in Algeria, more than three months ago, after Hazem criticized a letter from President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to his Prime Minister during an appearance on the French TV news channel France 24 in August.
ANEP, the state agency in charge of allocating state advertising, reacted by withdrawing its ads from Al-Fadjr. The loss of income forced the newspaper to reduce its print run, reduce the number of pages in each issue and finally to stop producing a print issue altogether.
Al-Fadjr now only appears online and has had to go into debt in order to pay its journalists’ salaries. Hazem began her hunger strike in protest against “the government’s decision to punish me.”
“I have been fighting for more than 15 years for media freedom and independence,” Hazem told RSF, the Association Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’Etat civique and CTLP. “But the pressure has become unbearable and this hunger strike, which could put my life in danger, is now the only solution.”
“We condemn this punishment, which amounts to a sentence to death by strangulation for Al-Fadjr and which has forced its editor, Hadda Hazem, to use extreme methods to make her voice heard,” RSF, the Association Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’Etat civique and CTLP said.
“Al-Fadjr is a respected newspaper, the first to be created by a woman journalist in Algeria, one she has been running against all odds for 17 years. We urge the Algerian authorities, who keep on undermining the privately-owned media, to lift this economic embargo without delay.”
In 2014, the state-owned company that had been printing Al-Fadjr ceased to do so after an editorial by Hazem criticized the possibility that President Bouteflika would seek a fourth term.
Newspapers that criticize the government such as El Watan and El Khabar have been denied state advertising since the 1990s.
Algeria is ranked 134th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.