16 April 2019

Algeria: Govt Expels AFP Bureau Chief Aymeric Vincenot After Accreditation Expires

New York — The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the expulsion of Aymeric Vincenot, the Agence France-Presse bureau chief in Algiers, and called on the Algerian government to facilitate press accreditation for foreign journalists.

Vincenot left Algeria for Paris on April 9, a final deadline given by police after authorities failed to renew his press accreditation and residency permit, according to a statement by AFP.

Vincenot, a French citizen, had been in Algeria without a press accreditation since December 31, 2018, after his application to renew it received no response from authorities; his residency permit expired on February 28 and police gave him until April 9 to leave the country, according to his employer, news reports, and an AFP employee who spoke with CPJ on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. According to the AFP statement, Algerian authorities never formally informed the agency of the reason for not renewing Vincenot's accreditation.

Algeria is in a state of turmoil, with anti-government protests taking place throughout the country and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigning from office on April 2, according to news reports.

"It is imperative for foreign and local journalists alike to have the ability to report on the ongoing protests and political changes in Algeria," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour from Washington, D.C. "We call on authorities to grant accreditation to Aymeric Vincenot, and to ensure a transparent accreditation process that facilitates coverage by international reporters."

Algeria's Ministry of Interior did not immediately respond to CPJ's emailed request for comment.

Foreigners living in Algeria are required to have authorized working papers in order to maintain their residency, according to the official website of the Algerian Ministry of Interior. For journalists, that means having a valid press accreditation, according to AFP.

AFP Chairman Fabrice Fries said in a statement issued by the agency that the decision, which was "taken under the presidency of Mr. Bouteflika," was "unacceptable." While Vincenot left the country after Bouteflika's resignation, the decision not to renew his press accreditation took place during Bouteflika's rule.

On March 21, local news outlets reported that the Algerian government had issued several press accreditations to foreign journalists covering the protests after previously rejecting many applications. However, also in March, one foreign journalist was expelled and another denied entry into the country, as CPJ reported at the time.

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