Algeria Expels 70 Journalists From Government-Run Hotel
Decision Increases Possiblity of Violent Attack s Against Members of the Press
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His Excellency
Habib Chawki Hamraoui
Minister of Communications and Culture
c/o
His Excellency
Ambassador Lamamra Remtane
Embassy of the Democratic and Popular
Republic of Algeria
2118 Kalorama Rd., N.W.
Washington, DC 20008

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17 July 1998

 

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues' rights throughout the world, is writing to express deep concern about the recent decision of the Algerian government to expel some 70 journalists from the government-run Mazafran hotel in the town of Zaralda. As Your Excellency is aware, the Mazafran is one of two hotels in the vicinity of Algiers where dozens of journalists have sought refuge from the brutal assassination campaign waged by armed Islamic groups against members of the Algerian press. According to CPJ's research, 59 journalists have been murdered since May 1993, in addition to several other media employees.

The decision to expel the journalists was prompted by the government's plan to refurbish the hotel in advance of the Organization of African Unity summit to be held in Algiers next year. Authorities have offered the journalists alternative housing at the Matares hotel, located in a tourist village in Tipaza several miles further west of Algiers. The journalists, however, have protested the move, arguing that the new location will significantly jeopardize their security because of its considerable distance from the capital where most regularly commute to work. Four journalists are currently in the third week of a hunger strike initiated in protest of the eviction order and privately run newspapers yesterday observed a one-day strike in a show of solidarity with their colleagues.

CPJ believes that adequate security is essential for the functioning of the Algerian press, which over the last five years has been forced to operate under near-impossible conditions. We respectfully urge Your Excellency to commit the full resources of your office to ensure the safety of Algerian journalists in practicing their internationally recognized right to report news and opinion. We further ask you to ensure that any government actions affecting the press seek to maximize, rather than diminish, the security of journalists and their ability to carry out their professional duties.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience.

 

Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper

Executive Director