Algeria blocks two newspapers from publishing

Algeria’s Ministry of Communications on May 18, 2013, ordered two newspapers, the daily Mon Journal and its Arabic counterpart Djaridati, to remove two pages from their next day’s editions that focused on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s health, according to news reports.

Hicham Aboud, the owner and editor of both papers, said he had refused to remove the articles, which led authorities to block the publication of the May 19, 2013, editions. He also said he did not publish the articles on the newspaper’s websites for the fear of further trouble and the sake of his employees.

The articles discussed the president’s “declining” health. Bouteflika, Algeria’s aging and longest serving president, had not been seen since he was admitted to a Paris hospital in late April. In early May, officials made a short statement claiming he was recovering from a minor stroke, according to news reports. The articles in Mon Journal and Djaridati said the president had returned to Algeria in a “comatose” state.

Aboud defended the reports and called on Algerian authorities to present evidence proving Bouteflika was in good health, which the government has not done.

An Algerian public prosecutor also ordered a judicial investigation against Aboud, accusing him of “endangering state security, national unity, stability and proper functioning of instituting,” news reports said.

The Ministry of Communications issued a statement on May 19, 2013, denying that it censored the two newspapers, and instead insisting that the editor had decided to not publish the articles. According to the statement, the ministry had said the reports violated an article of the country’s media law, which states that journalists should respect state symbols, publish stories objectively, and correct any false news.

The statement did not identify what information in the censored reports it considered inaccurate.