Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is shocked to learn that the Bir Mourad Rais administrative court in Algiers has provisionally suspended the sale of shares in the El Khabar media group to Ness Prod, a company that is part of the privately-owned Algerian industrial conglomerate Cevital.
The court issued the ruling today (15 June) in response to the petition filed in May by the communication ministry, which claims that the sale would violate Algeria's 2012 Code of Information.
"Although not final, this decision is extremely disturbing and we urge the judicial authorities to deal with this case fairly and within a reasonable period, one that takes account of this media group's financial situation," said Yasmine Kacha, the head of RSF's North Africa desk.
"Blocking El Khabar's strategic decision would be unfortunate after all it has endured in the past 25 years to defend its critical and independent editorial line. It has been denied all state advertising since 1998 and its income from private-sector advertising has halved in the past two years as a result of probable government pressure on advertisers."
El Khabar CEO Cherif Rezgui said: "We regard this decision as surprising and unexpected. We are going to appeal to the State Council in the next 15 days. We hope that this case will be treated logically and in the framework of the law."
In May, RSF urged support for El Khabar and condemned the manoeuvres against it by the Algerian authorities.
Algeria is ranked 129th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2016 World Press Freedom Index.