Press freedom in Algeria has continued to decline since President Abdelmadjid Tebboune came to power in 2019. Algerian journalists work in fear of police repression and of ending up behind bars if they are not complacent with the able.
With the coming to power by force of Abdelmadjid Tebboune in 2019, the profession of journalism has been increasingly threatened. Between the arbitrary arrests without fair trial and the censorship that hits the country, journalists find themselves in a precarious situation never known before even under former President Bouteflika.
The example of the case of journalist Khaled Drareni hit the headlines when he was arrested by the Algerian authorities in the middle of Hirak for having tweeted about the events of peaceful demonstrations by Algerians who aspired to a better future under a democratic regime and not military.
The journalist known for having presented information on Algerian television and even having received Abdelmadjid Tebboune before becoming president, was called a “spy” by this same man during the Hirak. The Algerian head of state said that Khaled Drareni was not a journalist.
Although the reasons for his arbitrary arrest were not clearly announced by the Algerian regime, there can be no doubt that it was his tweets which crossed the Algerian borders that aroused the anger of those in power, especially since the journalist was a correspondent for foreign channels and reported on the reality on the ground of the extent of social unrest.
After him, several other journalists met the same fate, in particular the journalist of Liberté Algérie, Rabeh Karèche, who was arrested for covering the demonstrations of the populations of southern Algeria, a region where the Algerian regime maintains a media blackout of fear of the rise of separatist desires because of the deep disparities between the inhabitants of the north, and those of the south, poor and with a high unemployment rate.
The situation of independent media in Algeria is worrying. Their proportion has drastically decreased since 2019, the year in which Abdelmadjid Tebboune came to power following a coup by the military institution which imposed “its” candidate at a time when the people rejected the idea of a presidential election and boycotted it twice.
Media operating in the French language and offering a small window on the political and social situation in Algeria have been silenced by censorship of their electronic sites. These media were forced to submit to an editorial line close to power, whereas until then they had an independent label.
The case of Tout sur l’Algérie (TSA) is a convincing example of this sudden reversal of the editorial line that has become pro-power. The case of El Watan is also worrying where the last article published dates back to December 30, 2021.
More recently, Liberté Algérien, the last newspaper which could still afford to write freely, to criticize and to fulfill its role of information, because of its membership of a businessman, Issad Rebrab, ended up closing under pressure.
This finding is shared by the latest Reporters Without Borders report in its 2022 edition, where it is noted that the media landscape in Algeria “has never been so deteriorated”, listing the issues. Independent media under pressure, journalists regularly imprisoned or prosecuted, and several websites blocked.
“Media and journalists are subject to numerous pressures, the majority of which are exercised by the Presidency of the Republic, political parties, security services and local authorities”, the report states, noting “a direct influence on the appointment and dismissal media officials and regulatory authorities” by the Algerian authorities.
A reform of the penal code, adopted in 2020, criminalizes from one to three years in prison the dissemination of “false news” and “hate speech” aimed at undermining “order and national security” or ” state security and national unity,” explains RSF, adding that these grounds are “regularly used” indiscriminately for the sole purpose of criminalizing and convicting journalists.
“In this context, censorship and self-censorship are widespread”, denounces Reporters Without Borders, which also notes a difficult economic situation for the press organs which find themselves deprived of advertising and state subsidies which “are not granted only to public media or private media close to the regime”.