Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called for an end to harassment of Algerian media outlets and journalists when it met with Algerian communications minister Hamid Grine for the first time in Algiers today (1 June) to offer its recommendations on respect for media freedom.
RSF welcomed the fact that media freedom without any form of prior censorship is guaranteed for the first time in the constitutional reform adopted by Algeria's parliament in January, but said legislation must now be harmonised with the new constitution and with the provisions on media freedom and freedom of information in the international accords ratified by Algeria.
Concern was voiced about media dependence on the state's monopoly of printing and distribution, about selective allocation of state advertising by the National Agency for Publishing and Advertising (ANEP) and about the directives reportedly given to private sector companies not to place advertising with media critical of the government. All of these problems indicated a dangerous contraction in the space for media freedom in Algeria, RSF said.
RSF also voiced concern about repeated verbal threats against media outlets by leading Algerian politicians in recent months on the basis of such vague accusations as attacking "society's values," the "principles of the nation" and "Algeria's symbols."
RSF said it hoped that the Broadcasting Regulation Authority (ARAV), a new independent agency that is supposed to regulate the broadcasting sector, would begin working as soon as possible. Its new members were appointed on 25 May but it is not yet operational.
Finally, RSF said it hoped that the authorities would respect the desire of the owners and journalists of the independent Arabic-language media group El Khabar to continue operating by selling part of its shares to the Algerian industrial company Ness Prod. The communication ministry sought an order from the Bir Mourad Rais court in Algiers on 27 April holding up the sale while the judicial authorities verify whether it complies with the 2012 Code of Information.
"The communication minister appreciated our concerns and we hope that the assurances our organization received during this interview will be followed by an overall improvement in the situation of freedom of information," said Yasmine Kacha, the head of RSF's North Africa desk.
Algeria is ranked 129th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2016 World Press Freedom Index.