21 May 2013

Algerian Press Demand Truth On Bouteflika's Health

Photo: Sophie Paris/UN
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, left, meets UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (file photo).

Algerian newspapers on Tuesday denounced a news blackout by the government over the state of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been in a French hospital for three weeks. The government has accused local and international media of publishing false information as rumours circulate that the president may even be in a coma.

Pointing out that Bouteflika's Algerian doctor, Rachid Bougherbal, decladed on 29 April that the president would be home "in seven days at the latest", the Francophone Liberté daily declared that "for lack of information, rumour rules" and called for a weekly bulletin on the head of state's health to be issued.

The Arab daily Echorouk claimed that the French secret services were aware of the state of Bouteflika's health but Algeria's government and people were not.

On Monday Prime Minister Abdelamalek Sellal accused local and foreign media of publishing "false" information and claimed that his life had never been in danger during his three-week stay in Paris's Val-de-Grâce military hospital.

In France Le Parisien newspaper on Monday quoted sources saying that Bouteflika, who was admitted for a recurring stomach cancer, was in intensive care.

On Sunday Algerian police raided the premises of two newspapers and siezed copies alleged to carry "alarmist" reports on the president's health, accusing editor, Hichem Aboud, of endangering the security of the state.

A number of strikes and jobless protests have recently taken place in Algeria.

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