Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) lists Algeria as a country where the media struggle to fulfil their role due to judicial harassment. The unstable political environment is increasing threats to the freedom of information in Algeria, and the authorities continue to step up their harassment of journalists. Reporters covering the “Hirak” protests that began in February 2019 are often detained for questioning, placed in police custody or even jailed for extended periods
The country is ranked as number 146 in RSF’s global press freedom index, which basically means that press freedom in Algeria is under threat.
A group of seven MEPs from the European Parliament have written a letter to the European Commission calling for urgent intervention by the European Union (EU) to put an end to the repression in Algeria. The MEPs hope “to draw the attention of Josep Borrell the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to the situation of press freedom in Algeria and the abuses committed against journalists”. Signatories are from across political groups and include members from the EP’s Maghreb delegation and from the Human Rights Committee; they include Raphaël Glucksman, Bernard Guetta and Salima Yenbou of France, Hannah Neumann of Germany, Maria Arena of Belgium, Tineke Strik of Holland and Heidi Hautala of Finland.
But their intervention has drawn hostile criticism from the official Algerian Press Agency (APS) containing anti-semitic rhetoric. This upsurge of anti-semitism in official Algerian government controlled media comes at a time when antisemitism has become more widespread in Europe than anyone ever predicted, against a backdrop of populism, intolerance and xenophobia. Can it be a coincidence that it follows immediately upon the appointment of 10 ministers of Moroccan origin in the new Israeli government? There is actually nothing unusual about this, we all live in a multicultural, multi-ethnic world. Approximately 1 million Israeli Jews have at least partial family origin from Morocco, and they constitute the second-largest Israeli Jewish community after the Russian Jews in Israel. Nevertheless, this “news” caused an incredible and disproportionate outburst in the Algerian media.
At a conference this week in Brussels, Raya Kalenova of the European Jewish Congress said “Antisemitism is not only a threat to the Jewish community, Radicals are gaining strength and the forces of moderation have been weak. Populism, intolerance and xenophobia are threatening our democratic foundations.”
Algeria has suffered from a lack of media freedom for many years, and efforts are needed to build back the capacity of journalism in the country to give its citizens the independent press information sources that Algerian society needs. But the suggestion that state controlled media is distributing racist and anti-semitic messages in Algeria is deeply troubling, and a response to the letter addressed to the European Commission by Members of the European Parliament is urgently needed.