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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

JULY 2, 2003

France 2
France 3

Algerian authorities banned the foreign media from covering the release of two convicted leaders of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), a group that was outlawed in 1992 when its party was poised to win parliamentary elections. At least two French news crews were expelled the next day for ignoring the ban.

According to CPJ sources in Algeria, government officials contacted foreign news outlets in the capital, Algiers, and told them they were barred from covering the release of FIS leaders Ali Belhadj and Abassi Madani, who were sentenced to prison in 1992. Madani had been under house arrest since 1997, while Belhadj was held at a prison in Blida, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Algiers.

On July 1, the Communications Ministry contacted the state-run French television stations France 2 and France 3 and the private French station TF1—all of which were in Algiers to cover the return of Air France flights to Algeria—telling the outlets that they were not allowed to cover Madani and Belhadj's release, said a France 2 spokesperson.

The spokesperson said that the three stations ignored the ban and fed a tape of Belhadj's prison release to their stations in Paris from their hotel. After the footage aired on French television, police went to the hotel and confiscated the journalists' equipment. The TF1 team left the country before the official expulsion order came, and Algerian authorities accompanied the France 2 and France 3 journalists to the airport.

Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse reported that the crews of another French station and a Belgian station were also expelled. CPJ was unable to confirm that report.

AUGUST 14, 2003

Le Soir d'Algérie
Le Matin

The state printer 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Matin, L'Expression, and Liberté—stating that if they did not pay debts owed to the printer within 72 hours, they would not be published. Within two weeks, three of the papers paid their debts and resumed printing. However, Errai, Le Soir d'Algérie, and L'Expression have been unable to pay, and the printer have refused them service.

Journalists at the newspapers accused Algerian officials of using the papers' debts to pressure publications 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 stating 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 the Algerian state printer has refused to print newspapers. Since private Algerian newspapers emerged in the early 1990s, editors have repeatedly complained about politically motivated pressures from the printer.


Mohamed Benchicou, Le Matin
Ali Dilem, Liberté

Algerian authorities detained Benchicou, managing editor of the French-language daily Le Matin, and Dilem, a cartoonist with the French-language daily Liberté. Youssef Razzouj, Le Matin's editor, told CPJ that police arrested Benchicou at his home and took him in for questioning. According to Razzouj, Benchicou was released after being queried about several recent articles in Le Matin about government corruption and financial malfeasance.

On September 9, an investigating judge questioned Benchicou about the same articles. State prosecutors allege that the articles defame President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Police also detained Dilem on September 8 and released him the same day. Like Benchicou, Dilem faced an investigating judge the following day, who questioned him about several of his recent cartoons, which allegedly insulted the president. Dilem was not charged but could face more questioning as the investigation continues.