Algeria threatens to withdraw France 24 press accreditation over 'blatant bias'

Algeria threatens to withdraw France 24 press accreditation over 'blatant bias'
Broadcaster France 24 has been threatened by Algerian authorities over alleged bias in its reporting of the pro-democracy Hirak protests.
3 min read
AFP has been accused by Algerian authorities of bias [Getty]
Algeria's communications ministry on Saturday threatened broadcaster France 24 with the "permanent withdrawal" of its press accreditation over "blatant bias" in its coverage of the country's pro-democracy Hirak protest movement.

"A final warning before the permanent withdrawal of accreditation was sent to France 24," a ministry statement said. 

"The bias of France 24 in the coverage of the Friday marches is blatant, going so far as to resort without restraint to archival images... to help anti-national remnants consisting of reactionary or separatist organisations," the ministry charged.

It was referring to the outlawed Islamist movement Rachad and Movement for the Self-Determination of Kabylie (MAK), a traditionally restive region in the northeast.

The Hirak broke out in February 2019 in outrage at then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term in office. 

The ailing strongman was forced to step down weeks later, but the movement continued with demonstrations, demanding a sweeping overhaul of a ruling system in place since Algeria's independence from France in 1962.  

Since its second anniversary on February 22, the Hirak has restarted weekly Friday protests, suspended for almost a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Communications Minister and government spokesman Ammar Belhimer meanwhile summoned the France 24 bureau accredited in Algiers to warn "against what appears to be subversive activity, illustrated by unprofessional practices hostile to our country", the official APS news agency reported.

According to the ministry, the channel "is striving to rejuvenate at all costs these counter-revolutionary 'prefabricated upheavals' instigated by NGOs that are well-established in Paris and other European capitals" - a reference to press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and rights group Amnesty International, among others. 

Foreign media working in Algeria are subject to bureaucratic, opaque and arbitrary press accreditation procedures.

Agence France-Presse's Algeria bureau chief, Philippe Agret, was appointed in October 2019 but authorities have failed to provide him with accreditation. 

Working conditions remain difficult for Algerian journalists, who are exposed to prosecution and even imprisonment, as well as hostility from certain Hirak activists.

On Friday, a France 24 team was among journalists who were verbally abused by a group of protesters taking part in the weekly Hirak demonstration, an AFP reporter witnessed. 

It was not the first time protesters have showed animosity towards the media, which some accuse of pro-regime bias.

Demonstrators have also accused Algerian journalists working for French outlets of representing a country seen as a supporter of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

Tebboune was elected in December 2019 on low turnout in a poll boycotted by the protest movement. 

RSF ranked Algeria 146 out of 180 countries and territories in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, a 27-place drop from 2015.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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