- There is increasing evidence of political pressure on independent Algerian media as the country gears up for national elections next year. Several journalists and independent media have been targeted by Algerian police lately.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) yesterday condemned what it called political pressure and "intolerable persecution" of Algerian journalists. The US-based group - which represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries - claimed to observe an ongoing "crackdown on private media in Algeria."
The Algerian government has summoned seven journalists working for the newspaper 'Liberté', "without justification before the police." The seven journalists targeted are: managing editor Farid Alilat, former managing editor Outoudert Abrous, columnist Mustapha Hammouche, editor Saïd Chekri, cartoonist Ali Dilem and journalists Mourad Belaïdi and Rafik Benkaci.
Mr Alilat and three of the newspaper's journalists were earlier summoned on 27 and 28 August and interrogated about articles exposing high-level government corruption, going right up to the entourage of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
- This is intolerable persecution of professional journalists, said, IFJ Secretary-General Aidan White. "They are being targeted by political leaders who are threatening press freedom and the fabric of democracy." Earlier this week, Mr White travelled to Algiers and met with publishers and editors of newspapers that had been targeted by the government.
A little over two weeks ago, seven Algerian independent dailies were suspended based on claims by the authorities of commercial irregularities. The seven newspapers in question - Le Soir d'Algérie, Liberté, El-Watan, Le Matin, El-Khabar, l'Expression and Er-Raï - had been given one week to pay media debts to state printing firms.
Immediately after what IFJ calls "this flagrant attack on press freedom," the group had reacted by condemning these actions as "bureaucratic moves to silence the free press in Algeria."
The IFJ says it has written to Algerian Minister of Culture and Communication, Khalida Toumi and President Bouteflika, calling on them to reaffirm the country's commitment to press freedom and democracy. "This sort of unexplained pressure and harassment on journalists must be stopped immediately," said Mr White.
- It is completely unacceptable for the authorities to try to muzzle dissident voices, particularly in the months before a crucial national election, the IFJ Secretary-General added.
One week ago, Mr Aliat and several other journalists from the newspaper had also been grilled regarding publications they had issued exposing corruption by high-ranking government officials. Although five of the aforementioned papers paid the media debt, and have resumed publication, both l'Expression and Er-Raï have been forced out of action.
The IFJ therefore further was calling on the Algerian government to rescind the suspension of l'Expression and Er-Raï, and to "recognise the democratic rights of all media, both independent and state-owned, to criticise their regime and to do so without any external interference."
Also the Paris-based media watchdogs Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) earlier this week strongly protested what it called "police harassment" of Algerian journalists. "These summonses are part of the authorities' game involving media debts towards state printing firms," said RSF's Secretary-general, Robert Ménard.
- The regime is obviously annoyed that most indirectly-censored privately-owned newspapers have reappeared and is looking for new ways to keep pressure on them, Mr Ménard added. "Even if Liberté is being accused of libel, there is no need for journalists to be interrogated for days at a time by police. This is simply being done to harass them."
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.