Algerian newspaper covering corruption suspended

A court in central Algiers indefinitely banned the bimonthly newspaper Sirry Lelghaya (Highly Classified), a supplement of Al-Monaqasa newspaper, as of November 3, 2009. According to local news reports, the vague wording of the decision noted licensing irregularities without providing details. The court’s decision was issued in accordance with the Information Act of 4/4/1990 and the Penal Code. This legislation grants the judiciary the power to ban and fine newspapers.

The editorial staff was notified of the decision by the head of the criminal division of the judicial police of Algiers. Editor-in-Chief Nassim al-Qifl expressed his astonishment that “such a decision would be issued this way.” He said it is linked to the paper’s reports on corruption. Most recently, Sirry Lelghaya published an article on corruption in the municipality of central Algiers and the embezzlement of public funds. Al-Qifl told CPJ that he had received a phone call from the director of the municipality of central Algiers threatening that he would pull strings to have him fired over the article. He also called for the intervention of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to “protect the freedom of the press, which he has always defended in his speeches.”

The National Union of Algerian Journalists issued a statement denouncing the decision and stated that the shuttering of the paper “raises questions about the independence of the institutions and bodies responsible for regulating the media.”