Media Landscapes

Algeria

Written by Cristina Romero

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Algeria, officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, is a country located in North Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Morocco and Tunisia. With an estimated population near to 35 million and a size of almost 2.4 million km2, it is the largest country on the Mediterranean sea, the second-largest on the African continent, and the eleventh-largest country in the world in terms of land area. Its capital city is Algiers.

Algeria gained its independence from France in 1962 after the Algerian War, a conflict between France and Algerian independence movements. Under the 1976 constitution (modified in 1979 and last amended in 1996) Algeria is now a multi-party republic where the head of state is the President of Algeria, elected for a 5-year term. He appoints the Prime Minister, who is also the head of government. The Council of Ministers is appointed by the Prime Minister. Algeria' s President is Abdelaziz Bouteflika, since 28 April 1999, and its Prime Minister is Ahmed Ouyahia, since 23 June 2008.

The backbone of Algeria's economy is the hydrocarbons sector, accounting for over 95 percent of export earnings. It has the eighth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world and it is the fourth-largest gas exporter. The country also ranks 15th in oil reserves.

Islam is the official religion of the country, with the population being 99 percent Muslim, mainly Sunni. Algerians celebrate the Revolution Day on the 1st November.

Algeria's government exercises a considerable control over the media industry. Whilst there are officially no censorship laws, Algerian legislation states that those insulting or defaming government officials can face prison or hefty monetary fines. In order to avoid different forms of government pressure, the print media practice self censorship.

In general terms, the printed press is more active than the TV and often has much to say about the authorities.

The country has more than 45 independent French-language and Arabic-language publications as well as four government-owned newspapers (two published in French and two in Arabic). The government also owns all radio and television outlets, which provide pro-government programming.

According to the World-Wide Press Freedom Index 2007 of Reporters Without Borders, Algeria is at the 123th place out of the 169.

It can also be a dangerous environment for journalists; 57 journalists were reported murdered between 1993 and 1997, blaming most of them on armed Islamist group

The history of the Algerian press can be analyzed through five different periods:

1962 – 1965

Editors of newspapers were intellectuals belonging to the ruling party FLN (National Front of Liberation), who enjoyed a certain kind of freedom.

1965 – 1988

Civil servants controled by the state bureaucracy replaced the intellectuals and freedom of the press became unknown. During this period there were three main government-run newspapers, El-Moudjahid (The Freedom Fighter) published in French, Ech-Chaab (The People) in Arabic, and the weekly Algérie Actulalité, also in French.

1988 – 1992

The popular pressure managed to bring along the liberalization of the press. In 1990 The Information Code enacted, ceasing with the government's monopoly over print media. As a result of that, several private newspapers appeared for the first time in 1964 and the press enjoyed greater freedom.

Immediately after the ban on private press was lifted, all Algeria's opposition political parties started to publish their own newspapers, but nowadays none of them exist anymore. The Algerian government's response to that was they failed to reach a massive audience, though many voices suggest their disappeared as a result of the authorities pressure. Whichever the reasons might be, the principal opposition political parties can express themselves in non-party independent newspapers, whose editors also support them.

1992 – 2000

This period coincides with the beginning of the civil war between the Algerian government and various Islamist rebel groups. A military-backed regime came to power and restricted journalists and freedom of expression. A number of newspapers were shut down, some journalists were jailed, some disappeared and others were assassinated. During this period readership of newspapers declined.

From 2000 onwards

Journalism has regained some of the freedom lost during the early 1990s.

The media's effort to spread information to the different socio-economic classes has not been very successful. On one hand, the educated and affluent elite controlling the content and distribution of mass media to the Algerian society often fails to reach the middle class. On the other hand,

many rural Algerians are illiterate and too poor to even buy newspapers. Those who do have access may not understand the Standard Arabic and French used in all forms of the media.

Since most of the Algerian urban population lives in the northern 10 percent of the country, most printing media and other related activities are also concentrated in this part of the country.

The first Algerian newspaper, Al Mubashir, was established in 1847 by order of the French King Louis-Philip. Al Mubashir was the third newspaper to appear in the Arab world and continued to be the official newspaper until Algeria became an independent state in 1962.

The annual circulation of the Algerian newspapers is estimated in 364 million.

The number of the daily newspapers is 43 titles, 20 titles are published in Arabic, led by El Khabar, and 23 titles are published in French language, led by Le Quotidien D’Oran.

Even though the Arab-language newspapers have witnessed a great development and have won larger readership, Francophone newspapers are still the favorite among the educated elite. The printed Arabic newspapers represent 48 percent of the total number of the printed newspapers (in Arabic and French languages). Therefore the francophone newspapers run the first place by 52 percent.

El khabar is an independent daily newspaper published seven days a week in the tabloid format. It's one of the most widely read Algerian newspapers, representing around a third of the total number of what is being printed by the Arab and Francophone newspapers put together. It was founded by a group of young journalists in 1990 after the fall of Algeria's one-party system in 1988. Its staff has been sent to jail in more than one occasion after doing some critical reporting with the Algerian government.

Ech Chourouk is Algeria's second-largest daily Arabic newspaper after El Khabar. It also started publishing in the 1990s as independent and often critical of the government, as well as of the Islamist rebel movements remaining active after the Algerian Civil War. The paper also publishes a weekly supplement called Ech Chorouk El Ousboui.

El-Massa is another daily newspaper in Arabic. It was born in 1985 as the first Algerian newspaper to be published in an evening edition. In the Arabic language “El Massa” means “Evening”. Politically aligned with the centre, it is supportive of the Algerian government.

Older newspapers such as Ech Chaab, have lost grounds to more independent publications.

Between the most popular French newspapers we can find the following names:

Le Quotidiend'Oran is a private and daily newspaper established in 1994 in the city of Oran. It has neither political nor religious affiliation. Its circulation range is estimated between 100.000-200.000, whilst its readership range is about 300,000-600,000. This paper is widely known for the high quality of its journalists.

El Watan is known for being unbiased. Amongst their major aims is the promotion of democracy, therefore it has acted as an outspoken voice against censorship and corruption. It has suffered the pressure from the Algerian government several times and according to the international press watchdogs Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) it has been targeted by both government forces and Islamist insurgents.

Le Soir d'Algeria is a privately-owned and daily newspaper. It was created in 1990 in the city of Algiers. Providing with general and independent information, its circulation figures reach between 25,000-50,000 and its readership range is estimated under 75,000 and 150,000. Its web is

El Moudjahid is another daily French language title. From its creation in 1962 it was aimed to be the FLN information bulletin during the Algerian War, circulating among resistance fighters. Its name means "holy warrior". Once the war finished it became Algeria's main newspaper, acting as a propaganda organ for the single-party FLN government. When Algerian government allowed the publication of independent newspapers in 1988, El Moujahid stayed in publication. Today it remains as a state newspaper.

Other French-language publications are Liberte or La Tribune.

Although the creation of private radio stations is explicitly allowed by the 1998 amendment to the 1990 Information Code, the radio and TV industry are public institutions run by the Algerian government.

Along with United Arab Emirates, Algeria has the highest number of local government-owned FM radio stations of all the Arab countries. On the opposite side, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine lead all Arab countries for the number of private radio stations.

State-owned radio stations in the Arab World still outnumber private radio stations, although the number of private ones is growing and approaching the number of state-owned ones.

The three national radio channels are: Channel 1 (Arabic), Channel 2 (Berber), and Channel 3 (French and some English). Apart from the national ones, many regions of the country have their own provincial radio stations.

Other radio stations are Algeria's El Bhadja Radio Station, Radio Annaba, Radio El Bahia, Radio Sidi Bel Abbes, El Radio Cirta FM, Radio Coran, Radio Culture, Radio Mitidja, Radio D'Adrar, Radio Ghardaia, Ziban Radio, Frequences Du Reseau FM and Radio Soummam. Kabyle Radio is the only Berber radio station in Algeria.

In spite of providing up-to-date news and discussions, the information is not free from censorship as the government imposes strict control measures over news content.

Nevertheless, Algerian authorities have not taken any measures to restrict the installation an use of satellite dishes which provide with radio signals from abroad. According to official figures, at least 8 million Algerians currently receive radio broadcasts on different European and Arabic stations.

What a religious discourse concerns, Algeria operates Radio Qur'an, a station broadcasting different religious programmes, recitations from the Qur'an, and interpretation of the Hadiths. The radio station counts on special programming presented by Algerian and foreign Muslim scholars that has helped convince several terrorists to reject violence and return to society.

In Algeria there is one state-run TV station, Enterprise Nationale de Television (ENTV).

The government's monopoly over the national television is even more evident for the reason that national news programs try to avoid a deep coverage on the country's violence, unless it involves a large number of people.

Local Algerian TV is limited to just one station.

Privately owned TV stations are not allowed in Algeria. In 2002 ENTV formed a collaboration with Khalifa TV, an Algerian TV station in Paris that is privately owned.

Satellite TV is also popular in this African country. Since the government lifted its ban on satellite dishes in 1987, they are widely available. Around 60 percent of Algerian households are estimated to use them in order to gain access to European and other national channels. Stations based in France are mostly watched.

As regards to satellite television, they are quite popular in Algeria. BRTV and Khalifa TV are two of the most viewed satellite television channels. Whereas BRTV, launched in in 1999, is a Berber Khalifa TV, launched in 2002, is a pro-government alternative.

Two new satellite channels were recently launched in March 2009. One of the new channels is called “Rabi’a” (the fourth) and speaks Tamazight with five different dialects. It broadcasts news from Algeria and the rest of the world. Its aim is to spot a light on the cultural diversity of the Tamazight language which is a characteristic of the Algerian people.

The other channel, al-Qur’an, airs different religious programs and it is the first of its kind. Its aim is to satisfy the demand of a wide spectrum of citizens, to enhance the national religious identity and to save it away from extremism. This new TV channel is part of a national program to launch specialized channels on children, science and the Berber culture.

Algerian satellite television offers a wide variety of channels. Hence viewers are certain to find something to keep them entertained in their own language.

For the most part, Algerians prefer watching foreign TV channels such as the Arabic MBC, ART Al Jazeera, and French channels such as TV5, TF1France and FR3.

Algerian Cinema also has to deal with a blockade imposed from within the country. The political turmoil and the lack of local production companies and distributors has caused a production decline.

In addition to that, between 1998 and 1999, the Algerian government, took three questionable measures: it shut down the Centre Algérien des Arts et de L’industrie Cinématographiques (CAAIC), the Centre of L’Entreprise Nationale de Production Audiovisuelle (ENPA) and the Agence Nationale des Actualités Filmées (ANAF), because they did not make any profit.

At that time and according to industry professionals, cinema in Algeria was dying. Moreover, many cinemas in the capital were replaced by night clubs and fast-food restaurants.

Since then a number of film professionals have tried to ring the alarm to combat piracy and illegal videos, but they have not had much success. Their major achievement has been the rescue of film equipment from bankrupt companies.

Despite all the challenges and difficulties, some quality films have been made in Algeria. Worth to mention are Rachida by Yamina Chouikh, The Beacon (Al-Manara) by Belkacem Hadjadj, Ten Million Centimes by Bashir Draiss, and Bab el-Oued City by Merzak Allouache.

In the last few years the Algerian government seemed to raise its consideration over the cinema industry. For example, the National Centre for Film and Audiovisual Arts (CNCA) was established in 2004, receiving human resources and enough material to help revitalize Algerian cinema.

The policies to break the isolation of the Algerian cinema were characterized by the organization of big cultural events such as the Year of Algeria in France, Algeria: Capital of Arab Culture, and the Panafrican Festival. These events contributed to the revitalization of cinema and financed many private and co-produced national films. Although these festivals did not mean the start of a sustainable film industry, they have led to the emergence of many young film-makers and raised the ceiling on government funding for all types of films.

The Algerian telecommunications and postal sector has been subjected to a big reform since 2000. A that time the government established a new regulatory framework for a multi-operator telecommunications system meant to end the monopolization of telecommunications and postal services by the state

In May 2000 the Government brought about a new telecommunications model followed by the creation of the Regulation Authority for Postal Services and Telecommunications, an independent authority which acts as the arbitrator between different authorities; the national fixed telephone operation Algeria Telecom, that has now become Mobilis; and the postal operator Algeria Post,

As regards to the telecommunications and the postal sectors the Algerian Government pursuits to liberalize this market segments. According to World Bank's figures Algeria’s telecommunications market is one of the most liberalized ones in the Middle East and North Africa regions. This increasing competition is triggering significant investment, the sale of several cellular telephone licenses and fixed telephone licenses.

Orascom Telecom Algeria (commercial name “Djezzy”), giving service to some five million subscribers, is the first private mobile telecommunications operator. It is followed by the Saudi Wataniya Telecom Algeria “Nedjma”. Two VSAT licenses were also awarded in 2004 to Djezzy and a consortium of Monaco’s Divona Telecom and Algeria’s Kpoint Com. A fixed telephone license was also granted in April 2005 to Orascom Telecom Holding in partnership with Telecom Egypt.

Algeria Telecom managed to provide capacity to almost seven million fixed lines, three million ADSL subscribers and 6 million mobile subscribers by 2008. By 2010 it plans to invest some US$ 2.5 billion.

Although there are circa two million fixed telephone subscribers in Algeria, over 70 percent of them are administrations, public utilities and trade and services companies. The household connection rate remains lower than 30 percent.

The French brand Alcatel represents more than 50 percent in the Algerian cellular network, but also German, Swedish and Chinese suppliers share a piece of the Algeria's telecommunications infrastructure.

With 3.314 million of telephones main lines in use in 2008, Algeria is placed 46th in a global ranking. On the other hand, the number of mobile phones in the same year went up to 31.871 million, ocuppying the 30th position.

Algeria gained Internet connectivity in 1993 under the control of the Center for Research on Scientific and Technical Information (CERIST). In 1998 a Ministerial Decree ended the state monopoly of the service provision by allowing private sector companies to provide Internet services. The decree included a clause that commercial providers of the Internet service must be Algerian. Internet broadband services began in 2003. Its diffusion has increased over the last years, going from circa 1,500 users in 1999 to nearly 4.1 million in 2008. Nowadays Algeria occupies the 51st position in a global ranking and, according to the 2009 Internet World Stats figures, it is between Africa's top ten countries for Internet use. Although the Algerian government has promoted initiatives allowing users to access Internet services on a “pay-as-you-go” basis, without having to pay for a monthly subscription, the prices are prohibitively high for most of Algerians. For this reason many Algerian Internet users depend upon dial-up connections and cyber cafes for access.

When the Internet was first available in Algeria Internet cafes were very restricted in some cities. The police made cafe managers retain all information on visitors, including their names, addresses, dates of birth, and national ID numbers. This information had to be delivered daily to the police. The Security Council also asked the owners of Internet cafes to report any suspicious activity by visitors. After this period, no harassments against Internet cafes were reported.

Despite the country’s youthful demographics only around 10.3 percent of Algerians use the Internet. That figure compares with 32.6 percent of Moroccans and 26.8 percent of Tunisians.

A 1998 telecommunications decree makes Internet services provider responsible for the sites they host, and therefore requires them to prevent access to any material that could be contrary to public order and morality, otherwise they could face criminal penalties. Journalists have often reported that sometimes it could take them up to two days to receive their e-mails, and consequently suspect the government may be spying on them.

In May 2008 the government introduced a new cybercrime bill amid reports informing that government web sites receive about 4,000 hacking attempts per month and web sites of financial institutions are also targeted. The bill criminalize online activities such as hacking, stealing of personal data, promoting terrorism and crimes online, blackmailing, and copyright infringement.

This bill was followed in May 2009 by the creation of a new national security service focused on cybercrime. It allows police officers explicitly to inspect and control Internet cafes in order to prevent terrorist activities.

In general terms Internet is relatively free in Algeria both in comparison to its neighbors and to the other media in the country, which is very heavily controlled by the government. Its access does not suffer any restrictions by technical filtering, but the state controls the Internet infrastructure and also regulates content by other means.

The most challenging use of Internet in a country without freedom of the press is the web is used to replace the censored media. For this reason newspapers tend to place their banned stories online, where they can reach a vast foreign audience.

All the main Algerian newspapers listed in the chapter dedicated to Print Media have an online version.

Although blogs are also gaining popularity, the Algerian blogosphere is not as dynamic as its counterparts in Morocco, Tunisia or Egypt. For this reason bloggers are not yet perceived as a serious threat to the Algerian authorities.

One of the most popular political blogs is called Algerie-politique. His author, El Mouhtarem, keeps his real name secret to avoid reprisal by the Algerian authorities. With 3,500 to 5,000 visits a day, his readers are free to talk and comment on issues that only few in the mainstream Algerian media would dare to touch.

Abd el Salam Baroudy is the administrator of another famous blog called the Bilad Telmesan. In 2007 Baroudy was charged for criminal defamation for criticizing the chair of Religious Affairs and Endowment in Telmesan province for banning cooperation between imams from mosques and local broadcasters.

Dahmani’s Blog is run by Algerian cartoonist Lounis Dahmani. Through cartoons it covers various topics ranging from politics to social issues.

Algerian authorities must make a big effort in order to set the basis and speed up the process of achieving a digital information society in their country.

To this respect the Regulatory Authority for Post and Telecommunications (ARPT) launched an international call for tenders for the assistance and the implementation of the known as “Electronic certification in Algeria”. The closing date for getting all the specifications was 4th October 2009.

The tenders participating are expected to set up the necessary tools and mechanisms for the authorizations granting, and the electronic certification service providers follow-up and control; and to set up a model of confidence with its legal, organizational and technical components.

Algerian authorities seem to be committed to build and extend the digital media, which is absolutely necessary not only for the information society but for the economic development.

Nowadays the new multimedia tools like Facebook, Dailymotion don't seem to have posed much of a threat to traditional media in Algeria. The problem isn't so much the lack of democracy or free expression but mainly the high cost of computers, electricity, and high speed connections.

In Algeria there is a tremendous lag in multimedia growth at every level. Having said that, digital networks such as YouTube, Dailymotion and Facebook are increasingly being taken over by young people who want to express themselves freely. The gay community or those opposed to the regime of President Bouteflika have started up their own groups in Face book inviting others to join in.

Videos on the web have not really taken off yet. Since shooting with video on the street or in a public places is strictly controlled, a permit is required for everything. Some newspapers like El Watan have incorporated video into their online editions, but there aren't yet any local service providers who can feed professional quality images to the site and the technical structures are not yet in place.

Although young Algerians can get around with Internet restrictions by producing their own news stories, they are normally seen as erratic pieces.

As regards to the digital media, Algeria is on a par with Third World countries at this very moment, lacking in new information technologies, skill and talent. The situation could change in the future if effective research programs and investment in the sector are implemented.

Algeria's prime news agency is the state-run News Agency, Algerian Press Service (APS). It was born in December 1961, at the same time the wake of the national liberation war took place, aiming to be its representative figure on the world media spectrum.

APS began to build up their network throughout the country and to acquire good technical equipment once Algeria gained its independence in 1962. From that moment onwards it started to develop a public broadcasting service, as well as to train journalists, technical staff.

The agency took a big step forward in 1963, beginning telegraphic news broadcasting and connecting itself with other news agencies world agencies. It also extended its network of regional bureaux and invested in its representations abroad.

In 1985 APS became a public institution with economic missions, but also empowered with social and cultural dimensions. It gained its industrial and economic status in 1991, as well as acquiring the privilege of a public institution.

The approach to new technologies did not arrive till 1993. Its first computerized editorial office was launched in 1994 and one year later it began to deliver news automatically. The inauguration of APS's web took place in 1998, marking the beginning of a new era that would enable the agency to position itself among the world leaders of news and communication.

At the end of the same year APS launched its broadcast via satellite, which would help the agency diversify its service range, allowing its clients to get remote and real time access to its data banks, its specialized services, its digital pictures and computer-graphic products.

APS's central editorial office, is divided by 12 chief editorial staffs corresponding the following departments: political news, social news, cultural news, sports, regional news, investigations and reporting, business, data banks, international, translation and Internet.

A network of regional correspondents work in 12 areas covering all the areas of the country.

The representation of APS abroad takes place from 12 capitals: Washington, Moscow, Paris, London, Brussels, Rome, Madrid, Cairo, Rabat, Tunis, Amman and Dakar.

Apart from APS, there is also the L’Agence Algerienne d’Information (AAI). Based in Algiers, this is the first private and specialized news agency. Established in January 1999, it supplies with economic and social information

Media professionals in Algeria have long suffered the consequences of not being protected under a syndicated umbrella ensuring their rights and the defense of their material. There were many failed attempts in the past while the living and working conditions of journalism professionals kept on deteriorating.

The International Journalist Association of Alger launched a motion in 1998 in order to promote the creation of a representative organizational framework. Thus journalists from many different daily newspapers (Le Soir, La Tribune, El Watan, Le Matin, El Khabar and Liberté) also made a call to all the colleagues in the public sector aiming to mobilize their resources at all levels. The Coordination Des Rédactions (CDR) prepared the bases for a trade union on the 14th December 1997.

With the participation of 250 journalists, the bases finally organized themselves as a trade union in Algiers. Known as the Syndicat National des Journalistes (SNJ), the Algerian affiliate of the International Federation of Journalist (IFJ), was created for "all the journalists without distinction of any political opinion with the exception that they never condone extremist views, violence, crime, racism, nor sexism in any of their forms" to define their profession and guarantee their basic rights.

This in itself was a unique progress in the sense it constitutes the first ever written ban on gender discrimination.

In addition to leading campaigns to protect journalists’ rights, the SNJ helps with defamation cases and also lobbies for reforms in the media laws. After several years of hard work, the syndicate celebrated the launch of the Statute of Journalists, issued by the government in April 2008. This text is the centerpiece of legal conditions regulating Algerian journalists' work in both public and private sectors and guaranteeing their basic rights.

Media legislation in Algeria is not based on a strong tradition of press freedom. Rather than capitalist inclinations, the Algerian government has followed the socialist path. For that reason, mass media have mostly been under the government control.

Algeria's media sector has undergone significant changes since its independence from France in 1962. As the country started to develop its own media landscape, the authorities initially relied on journalists' self-imposed limitations to ensure its own policy, but sooner or later the press ceased to be constrained by these limitations, which translated into the nationalization of the major news publications and in the prohibition of most foreign newspapers. From that moment onwards, the National Liberation Front (FLN) dominated Algeria's media reality.

The Algerian Constitution was adopted in 1976, and was last revised in 1996. Some of the articles regarding media and freedom of expression s read as follow:

Article 36. Creed, Opinion:

  • Freedom of creed and opinion is inviolable.

Article 38. Intellectual, Artistic, Scientific Innovation, and Copyright:

  • Freedom of intellectual, artistic and scientific innovation is guaranteed to the citizen.
  • Copyrights are protected by the law.
  • The seizure of any publication, recording or any other means of communicatio can only be done in pursuance of a warrant.

Article 39. Privacy, Secrecy of Communication:

  • The private life and the honour of the citizen are inviolable and protected by the law.
  • The secrecy of private correspondence and communication, in any form, is guaranteed.

Article 41. Expression, Association, Meeting:

  • Freedom of expression, association and meeting are guaranteed to the citizen.

As years passed the Algerian government began to loosen its control over media. In 1988 mass popular protests against the FLN forced former President Al-Shadli bin Jdid to ratify the constitution in 1989, paving the way to press freedom.

In 1990 The Information Code was enacted, which meant the end of government's monopoly over print media, and the publication of private newspapers for the first time since 1964. Some of the articles of the Information Code aim to protect the media, for example:

Article 14, which provides that “the publication of all regular publications is free” once a simple declaration has been made to a tribunal.

Article 78, which provides that “whosoever offends by gestures, remarks or menaces a professional journalist during the exercise of his profession is liable to a term of imprisonment lasting 10 days to 2 months and a fine of 1.000 to 5.000 DA, or one of the two punishments only.”

Other portions of the Information Code set out the restrictions on the press that the government maintains it needs for national security purposes. These include, among others:

Article 97, which provides that “whosoever deliberately offends ... the head of state in office may be punished by imprisonment for at least one year and a fine of 3.000 to 30.000 Algerian Dinars, or one of the two punishments only.”

February the 9th 1992 the government strengthened its control over the press after a state of emergency was declared, allowing the arrest of journalists and the suspension of newspapers. This declaration was also followed by a decree on terrorism and subversion on September the 30th. In 1995 these sanctions became part of the Algerian Penal Code.

An inter-ministerial decree was promulgated in 1994 restricting the press rights. Thus the independent press could only print security information that was included in government bulletins controlled by the state-owned Algerian Press Service.

In the late 1990es the Algerian government began to liberalize its media policy. As part of this process it published a draft Organic Law on Information - Loi organique relative à l’information (LOI), which lead, among others, to the dismantling of press censorships committees at the printing houses. The government also started to timidly open up the state broadcasting to legal opposition, political opinions, and debate. Since then, the security situation of journalists has relatively improved.

In 2001 the Information Code and the Penal Code were amended to broaden the restrictions on the press, prohibiting the publication of information offending the President, the Parliament, the Courts, the National Popular Army or any other public institution, and increasing criminal sanctions on publishers, editors or journalists. In short, the 2001 amendments provide the Algerian government with more power to control the work of Algerian editors, journalists and publishers. These new measures threaten journalists with heavy fines and up to 24 months in jail. This amendment also says that anyone that deliberately spreads erroneous or tendentious information to undermine the state security may be subjected to even harsher sanctions up to 10 years of jail.

What has become known as the "Journee sans Journaux" ("Day without newspapers") followed the approval of these amendments. A total of 21 Algerian independent dailies cancelled their 28 May editions in protest. Despite these protests, the second house of Parliament adopted the new articles on 16 June 2001.

The government can also censor the press by removing an edition of a newspaper from news stands all over the country. Informal power can also be exercised by the Algerian authorities for three reasons: it owns the main printing presses, it controls the importation of paper and it takes over a big portion of the advertising market.

After the end of the civil war in 2002, president Abdelaziz Bouteflika allowed once again private media institutions to enter the sector. Due to the fact Algeria was still considered in a state of emergency, only limited press freedoms were given.

Issues of advertising revenues and private interests allowed Algeria to experience a new media renaissance, also leading into dissenting voices inside the media industry and critics on the policies of the Algerian President, specially by the press sector.

In May 2004, the government passed a law forcing public and private media to have their advertisements checked by a regulatory body - the Publicity Agency - before publishing.

The arbitrary rules set up to regulate the ads severely curtailed the income of several independent and state-funded papers, forcing many to shut down.

Before the last presidential elections in April 2009, the issue of the government control of the media has been a big concern for both domestic and international civil rights groups demanding for more deregulation of the media.

Many critical voices suggest the elections of April 9th were a mere formality, since no other candidate was able to rival president Bouteflika's tight grip on the state media and the monopoly he has held for years on the country’s audio and visual media.

As regards to the accountability system, the following information is not only specific for Algeria but for most of the Arab countries. Due to the difficult circumstances Arab reporters have to cope with, the increasing professionalism and accountability of the media are very significant and worth mentioning.

In order to reveal the truth and to express their opinions freely some Arab journalists have even paid with their own lives in societies where journalism plays a key role in the seek of democracy.

Some Arab governments have realized censorship can sometimes be counterproductive for them and have accepted having someone alerting them to what they may be doing wrong.

Most of Arab journalists should feel proud of the big step taken by their media, encouraging and stimulating debate in developing societies, promoting freedom of expression and leading them to democracies.

The proliferation of satellite dishes and Internet connections in the Algerian media landscape may trigger bit by bit a greater accountability on the part of state-owned media outlets. By playing a prominent role in uncovering corruption or incompetence of the government, they could force the public media be much more accountable towards the public opinion.

The Algerian media policy is tackled by the the government.

The Draft Organic Law on Information also establishes a High Council on Communication, Conseil Supérieur de la Communication (CSC). This body is responsible for implementing many of the LOI's provisions and also for the media.

As regards to the written press, a registration regime is established along with a number of restrictions on ownership, senior management and advertising. According to this regime,

public broadcasters are to be created and governed by Presidential decree. At the same time, a number of more specific obligations are contained in their charters. Private broadcasters are allowed but they are subject to a strict licensing regime overseen by the Council. Private press agencies are also permitted by law, but only upon authorization by the responsible minister. The law regulates the work of individual journalists, establishing a number of professional rules and other restrictions. Finally, separate sections set out the rules on the rights of reply and correction and defamation law.

A problem in Algerian media is the lack of independence of oversight bodies. The press registration regime is administered by the prosecutor, the appointments process for the CSC is under the control of the governing party, and independent press agencies need to gain approval of the responsible minister. Added to that, the draft law puts in place big restrictions of participation by foreigners in the Algerian media. This is exacerbated by a number of conditions on journalists and other media workers, which effectively restrict access to these professions.

Access to information and protection of sources are subject to wide-ranging exceptions. Finally, the law also contains a number of broad and vague restrictions on the content of what may be published. However, with the arrival of the third millennium, the Algerian press has been able to offer a wide variety of topics and events that were previously banned, such as AIDS, corruption or prostitution.

Four universities departments located in the cities of Algiers, Oran, Constantine and Annaba offer degree programs in journalism: Institut des Sciences de l’Information et de la Communication (ISIC), a branch of the Universite d'Algiers; Departement de la Communication of the Universite Mentouri Constantine; Departement des Sciences de la Communication of the Universite Badji Mokhtar in Annaba and the Department Bibliotheconomie-Sciences de l’Information in the Universite d' Oran.

These departments offer degree courses only in Arabic, whereas the majority of the newspapers are published in the French language.

Further education and practical training for students is not a very common practice. Therefore most of the publishers and editors complain about their weak entry-level of their employees.

In addition to journalism schools, a number of training opportunities are also available through some training programs offered by public and private newspapers in cooperation with organizations such as the Foundation Friedrich Naumann, Centre Culturel Francais, Reseau Euro-Maghrebin de Formation dans les Metiers de la Communication, (REMFOC) and Centre de Formation et de perfectionnement des Journalistes.

The U.S Agency for International Development has also funded in the past training session to Algerian practicing journalists focusing on investigative reporting in the areas of human rights, as part as a project implemented by the group of NGO's Rights Consortium and headed by Freedom House.

Algeria has no tradition of compiling media statistics. An Audit Bureau of Circulations, which would provide greater professionalism and could bring the necessary transparency and order to the industry, does not exist in Algeria.

There is also a vague knowledge of distribution figures, as a result of economic and social turmoil. Paradoxically all media both benefit and suffer from this. Ideally, a distribution company modeled on the French press distribution company Nouvelle Messagerie de la Presse Parisienne (NMPP) should be set up. But when it comes to business, Algerian newspapers don't seem to be on the same wavelength, with the most basic rules being compromised either by overwhelming political interests or mercenary considerations.

Although Algerian media have been pointed to be leaders in journalism in the region and can indeed be considered one of the freest in the Arab world, it is a fact its national authorities continue to restrict freedom of speech, press, assembly and association in various levels and degrees.

Change is in the hands of the political leaders, who will ultimately make the decision of whether or not to abolish the controversial Article 144-bis, which provides for jail sentences and fines for any attack or insult on the state president. Last electoral program of President Bouteflika could have been a good moment to review this articles concerning the media.

In the middle of these troubled waters Internet has been a valuable tool for disseminating unbiased news and getting round some kinds of censorship. Despite the fact Internet development in Algeria is still in a relatively early stage and only a few Algerians have access to it, it has given the papers the advantage of a worldwide readership, reaching a broader audience overseas both in English and French.

As regards to the use of social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter or blogging itself, it should only be a matter of time to see them grow and spread among the youngest ones. The fact they have not posed a threat to the traditional media is directly connected to the high costs of Internet access and not with a lack of interest for them.

The economic crisis is already affecting the Algerian media. Some political weeklies are facing financial problems that could lead into bankruptcies due to the increase of editing and printing costs and the lack of advertising revenue. As a result, newspapers have been forced to raise their prices from 20 to 30 Algerian Dinars (0.28 €), one of the most significant price increases in the last few years. The tough financial situation the Algerian weeklies are going through is forcing Algerian journalists to seek employment in Algerian dailies. These ones are much more financially stable and are favored by advertisers.

Algerian government emphasizes repeatedly the need to ensure the building of a digital society, which should be considered an essential framework for the development of its lacking economy.

Although very slowly, the transition within the Algerian media landscape has been taking place in recent years and some measures and initiatives have been set up to achieve the establishment and work of information society and modernize its current media landscape.

To name but a few, the Algerian government is launching a pilot project to deliver phone, Internet and cable TV services via fiber-optic cable to reduce the proliferation of satellite dishes. The project was launched just a few months ago by Hamid Bessalah, Algeria’s minister of Post, Information Technology and Communication.

The new service will initially make 60 TV channels available to residents.

Another example is the start-up initiative called The Algerian Start-up Initiative (ASI), aiming to help university graduates and hi-tech entrepreneurs transfer ideas into innovative information and communications technology-based enterprises. The idea pursuits to establish a Silicon Valley-style innovation zone made in Algeria.

  • Afrol.com- independent news agency dedicated exclusively to Africa
  • Algeria.com- online web providing ongoing information of all kind about Algeria
  • Algeria-watch.org- online web site providing information on human rights situation in Algeria
  • Animaweb.org- multi-country platform supporting the economic development of the Mediterranean
  • Arabmediawatch.com - organization representing Arab expatriate communities in Britain
  • Arabpressnetwork.org- digital network supporting the development of an independent press in the Arab world
  • BBC country_profiles - Algeria
  • CIA.gov - World Factbook: Algeria
  • Country-studies.com- online web site with description of the historical, social, economic and political systems of countries throughout the world
  • Digitalproductionme.com- The Middle East's largest broadcast and digital production portal
  • Euromedcafe.org- programme of Fondazione Mediterraneo for the intercultural dialogue between the two Mediterranean shores
  • Europeanforum.net- platform for cooperation between social democratic parties and political foundations
  • Filmbirth.com - an online web offering an extensive tour through the cinema in every country
  • Freemedia.at - global network of editors dedicated to the safeguarding of press freedom
  • Fs.oxfordjournals.org - international publisher of academic and research journals
  • Ifj.org - the world's largest organisation of journalists, representing journalists
  • Infoplease.com- popular online web site offering an online dictionary and Internet encyclopedia
  • Internetworldstats.com - International website featuring up to date world Internet usage
  • Magharebia.com - an online news web site dedicated to coverage of North Africa
  • Menassat.com - website focusing on news in the media in the twenty-two countries of the MENA region
  • Opennet.net - collaborative partnership of four leading academic institutions
  • Pressreference.com- online web site offering information about the media landscape in every country
  • Universityworldnews.com- global window on hihger education
  • USAID - US Agency for International Development
  • Wikipedia.org - Algerian profile
  • Winne.com- online web site about the sustainable development of Algeria

Cristina Romero
Journalist
European Journalism Centre
Residence Palace -IPC-
Wetstraat, Rue de la Loi 155
Block C Bureau 3/207
B-1040 Bruxelles, Belgium
Tel: +31 0619583719
Email: romero@ejc.net