The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about the Algerian state printers' refusal to print a number of private newspapers in recent weeks.
On August 14, state printers issued an ultimatum to six privately owned dailies—El-Khabar, Errai, Le Soir d'Algérie, Le Matin, L'Expression, and Liberté—stating that if they did not pay debts owed to the printer within 72 hours, they would not be published.
Three of the papers have paid their debts and have resumed printing. However, L'Expression, Le Soir D'Algérie, and Errai have been unable to pay, and printers have refused them service.
Journalists at the newspapers accuse Algerian officials of using the papers' debts to pressure newspapers because of their editorial content. Some of the newspapers involved have told CPJ that authorities were angered over the publications' recent reports implicating top government officials in financial malfeasance.
Editors who spoke with CPJ said that the state printer issued its ultimatum despite previous agreements that the papers could repay the debts in installments, and that the sums demanded were actually not due for several months. Several pointed out that other Algerian newspapers that owe the state printer money were not given ultimatums.
This is not the first time that Algerian printers have refused to print newspapers. Since private Algerian newspapers emerged in the early 1990s, editors have repeatedly complained about politically motivated pressures from state printers. While CPJ recognizes the right of printers to receive any debt owed, the Algerian government should ensure that the collection process is devoid of political pressures. Moreover, authorities should take steps to adopt clear and transparent guidelines for debt repayments.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists that works to guarantee press freedom worldwide, we ask your Excellency to do everything within your power to see to it that the papers, in agreement with the printers, are able to resume publishing as quickly as possible.
Ann K. Cooper