Algeria parliament approves law tightening control over the media

Reporters Without Borders criticises the legislation saying it has ‘negative chapters’ that constitute a violation of press freedom.

Algerian lawyers carry their national flag in the capital, Algiers [File: Anis Belghoul/AP]

Algeria’s parliament has approved a new media law that tightens control over the work of journalists and imposes new restrictions.

While the government said the law is key to ensuring the free exercise of media activity under legal controls, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said the law included “negative chapters” that constitute a violation of press freedom.

The law bans the Algerian media from receiving any funding or material assistance from any “foreign entity”.

Communications Minister Mohamed Bouslimani said the law aims to “enshrine freedom and pluralism of the press”, and “protect it from all forms of deviation”.

The new law de facto excludes dual nationals from the right to own or contribute to the ownership of a media outlet in Algeria.

“Some chapters are positive, some others represent a violation of press freedom, such as revealing sources to the judiciary, if requested, restricting access to any funding,” Khaled Drareni, the representative of RSF in North Africa, said.

Unlike the old law that required formal authorisation from the Ministry of Communication to create a newspaper, the new one is much easier in that it says journalists can set up a media outlet by only making a statement.

Earlier this month, a court in Algeria sentenced Ihsane El Kadi, a prominent journalist, to five years in prison. Ihsane, a vocal critic of the government who was arrested on December 24, has been accused of receiving foreign funding.

El Kadi’s arrest was also condemned by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies