Algeria harasses two Moroccan journalists

New York, September 24, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists denounces Algerian authorities’ harassment of two Moroccan journalists who were effectively detained for four days in the town of Tindouf in southwestern Algeria.

Lahcen Tigbadar and Mohamed Slimani, journalists with the Moroccan weekly Assahra Ousbouiya, returned home on Wednesday, according to news reports. Algerian police had prevented them from leaving a hotel in Tindouf, where they had been reporting on conditions facing refugees from Western Sahara, a territory in dispute between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front, according to news reports.

“We spent rough and frightening days during which we were treated as if we were terrorists,” the Moroccan independent daily Akhbar al-Youm al-Maghrebia quoted Slimani as saying. In a press conference in Aghadir in southern Morocco on Wednesday, the two journalists said Algerian authorities wanted to prevent them from covering “the disastrous situation in the Tindouf [refugee] camps,” the official Moroccan news agency MAP reported.

Assahra Ousbouiya said Tigbadar and Slimani had been obstructed despite having obtained press accreditation from Algerian authorities. The Algerian daily Echorouk quoted unidentified Algerian sources as disputing the accreditation claim.

The effective detention of the two Moroccan reporters prompted an outcry from the National Syndicate of the Moroccan Press.

“We condemn the restrictions that our colleagues were subjected to as they tried to do their job,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Algeria cannot use such detentions as a means of obstructing news on the plight of refugees.”