Algeria arrests former communication minister over corruption allegations
Algerian authorities have arrested former minister of communication Jamal Kawan and referred several officials over allegations of corrupting the budget of newspapers' advertisements.
On Monday, the Algiers Judicial Council issued a statement announcing the completion of investigations into a case of corruption and manipulation of the distribution of billions-worth advertisements to 'fake' newspapers.
The case reportedly involves several former officials in the National Agency for Publication and Publicity, which monopolises the distribution of advertisements to newspapers in the country.
"The case concerns the involvement of officials and ministers in enabling microscopic (...) or non-existent newspapers to benefit from advertising quotas, and newspapers to benefit from advertising without achieving the desired goal, and to favour press headlines over others with the complicity of agency officials," said the council's announcement.
The investigations have led to the arrest of the former director of the agency, Lamen Shaker and the former Minister of Communication, Jamal Kawan, who previously served as director of the agency.
Meanwhile, the council has decided to place the former Minister of Communication, Hamid Qurain, and five other officials under judicial control.
In October 2020, the post-Hirak administration of the National Agency for Publication and Publicity exposed for the first time the agency's manipulations in granting public advertising to newspapers owned by parliamentarians, businessmen and military officials.
In the same year, the agency stopped distributing advertisements to newspapers not owned by journalists or did not respect the media law, leading to the bankruptcy of sixty newspapers in Algeria.
The agency, which served for decades to impoverish anti-state newspapers, vows a new era where the state will have no control over the media institutions' activities.
Algerian authorities are holding at least 280 activists and dozens of journalists in detention, mostly for defamation of politicians or because of pro-Hirak writings.
In addition to the crackdown on freedom of speech, financial hardships in the last twenty years have pushed many Algerian titles, such as Le Matin, La Tribune and the weekly La Nation, to close over a drop in advertising revenue and sales.
Last year, the renowned Francophone newspaper Liberté bid farewell to its millions of readers around the country, stating financial struggles as the reasons behind its closure.
El-Watan, the most widely printed Francophone newspaper in Algeria, released a statement last year predicting that its closure is only "a question of time" due to rising political pressure and the economic situation it faces.