Dozen journalists arrested at Algiers censorship protest

Dozen journalists arrested at Algiers censorship protest
Algerian police arrested a dozen journalists participating in a rally Thursday against alleged censorship of coverage of protests against a fifth term for veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
3 min read
28 February, 2019
Dozens of journalists participating in a rally were detained by police [Getty]
A dozen journalists were arrested by Algerian police during a rally against alleged censorship of coverage of protests against a fifth term for veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika an AFP correspondent reported.

Around 100 print and broadcast journalists, working for both state-owned and private outlets, joined the demonstration in central Algiers against reporting restrictions they say have been imposed by media bosses on the protests that broke out last Friday.

"Free our colleagues," the remaining demonstrators shouted as those arrested were driven off in the back of police vans.

"Fourth estate, not a press that follows orders."

Algeria has been hit by a wave of protests over the ailing Bouteflika's announcement he will seek a fifth term in an April 18 election despite using a wheelchair and making few public appearance since suffering a stroke in 2013.

Tens of thousands took part in the first protests last Friday, and there have further demonstrations daily since, both in the provinces and in the capital, where demonstrations are illegal.

"This student uprising is not just a rejection of an unacceptable situation and an end the humiliation of the Algerian people," Nawal Hamidi, a political science student told The New Arab's Arabic service, "but a defence of our future, which cannot be lost as the future of the previous generation was."

Around 500 students protested at the university, AFP reported, but thousands more are reported to have demonstrated in campuses across the country.

"Students are a part of the people, and it's not possible to to separate them from this context," Hamia Mohammad, a literature student said.

"We reject the continuation [of Bouteflika's presidency] and it playing with our future."
But for several days, both the state broadcaster and private channels owned by media magnates close to the government kept silent about the protests.

State radio journalists said they had been ordered by management not to cover them.

Press watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) accused Algerian authorities on Tuesday of seeking to "muzzle" the media.

The protests come a day after Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said the "ballot box will decide in a peaceful and civilised way" if Bouteflika gets a fifth term.

Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, announced on 10 February that he will run for another term in office in the 18 April presidential election.

He is Algeria's longest-serving president and a veteran of its independence struggle who has clung to power since 1999 despite his ill health.

The 81-year-old flew to Switzerland on Sunday for what the presidency called "routine medical checks" ahead of the election.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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