Algeria intensifies crackdown on free press, rights activists amid covid-19 outbreak

The advent of the coronavirus did not prevent Algerian authorities from continuing their clampdown on the free press and human rights activists.

After banning Hirak movement marches, the newly recycled civilian leadership whose strings are pulled by the same old military junta arrested well-known Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni who has widely reported on Algeria’s protest movement that erupted in February 2019.

Drareni, a correspondent for the global media freedom group Reporters without Borders (RSF), was provisionally released after an outcry and protests outside the courthouse.

The case of Drareni is one in a series of incidents in the country in recent weeks that activists say amount to a campaign against the critical voices and opposition in the country.

Dozens of people including activists and students have been summoned since the coronavirus pandemic broke out, according to the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD).

“The authorities are taking advantage of this period of confinement because they know that people will not go out to protest on the street,” CNLD coordinator Kaci Tansaout was cited by Aljazeera as saying.

The Algerian Parliament seems unrelenting in its media blackout. It has passed a draft law criminalizing “fake news” deemed harmful to “public order and state security”.

RSF condemned the bill, describing it in a statement as “vaguely worded and draconian legislation” which is “designed to tighten the gag on press freedom”.

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