The Press

Algeria Table of Contents

From national independence and until the late 1980s, Algeria had almost no independent news media. Colonial legislation banned all nationalist publications during Algeria's fight for independence, and, although a few underground papers were circulated, independent Algeria emerged with no significant national news source. Ben Bella did not inhibit the freedom of the press in the immediate aftermath of the war, but self-imposed limitations kept the press rather prudently progovernment.

In 1964 government control tightened, and most Algerian news publications were nationalized. All news media became subject to heavy censorship by the government and the FLN. A union of journalists was formed under FLN auspices but was largely insignificant as an independent association until the late 1980s.

The primary function of the news media was not to inform or educate but to indoctrinate--affirming and propagating the socialist tenets of the national government, rallying mass support behind government programs, and confirming national achievements. No substantive and little surface-level criticism was levied against the regime, although evaluations of the various economic and social problems confronting the nation were available. Article 55 of the 1976 constitution provided that freedom of expression was a protected liberty but that it could not jeopardize the socialist objectives or national policy of the regime. The Ministry of Information worked to facilitate government supervision and to inhibit circulation of unauthorized periodicals. Almost all foreign newspapers and periodicals were likewise prohibited. Television and radio news programs escaped some of the more heavy censorship although they, too, were expected to affirm government policies and programs. Most news broadcasts were limited to international events and offered little domestic news other than accounts of visiting foreign delegations and outlines of the government's general agenda.

In the late 1980s, the situation changed under Benjedid. Independent national news sources were encouraged and supported. The new constitution reaffirmed the commitment to free expression, this time with no qualifying restrictions. New laws facilitated and even financially assisted emerging independent papers. Limitations on the international press were lifted, resulting in a mass proliferation of news periodicals and television programs presenting an independent position to a nation accustomed to getting only one side of the picture.

The liberalization facilitated the creation and circulation of a number of independent national French- and Arabic-language newspapers and news programs. A 1990 law legislated a guaranteed salary for the first three years to any journalists in the public sector establishing independent papers. As a result of the explosion of local papers, journals, radio and television programs as well as the relaxation of laws inhibiting the international press, the Algerian public has been educated and politicized. Journalists have become an important and influential sector of civil society. One program in particular, "Face the Press" (Face à la Presse), appearing weekly and pitting national leaders against a panel of journalists, has drawn immense popular enthusiasm. Among the major newspapers are AlMoudjahid (The Fighter), the organ of the FLN, published in Arabic and French; the Arabic dailies Ach Cha'ab (The People, also an FLN organ), Al Badil (The Alternate), Al-Joumhouria (The Republic), and An Nasr (The Victory); and the French dailies Horizons and Le Soir d'Algérie (Algerian Evening). As part of the military crackdown following the January 1992 coup, the news media have been restricted once again. A limited number of newspapers and broadcasts continue to operate, but journalists have been brought in by the hundreds and detained for interrogating. Tens more have been arrested or have simply disappeared, or have been killed by Islamists.

More about the Government and Politics of Algeria.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress