Geneva - The approval of a new law imposing additional restrictions on the work of journalists and the media in Algeria amounts to further censorship and is deeply concerning, said Euro-Med Monitor in a statement.
The new draft organic law consists of 55 articles and contains several provisions that could be used unjustifiably to increase censorship of the media, particularly the print and electronic formats, and create unnecessary complications for Algerians working with foreign media. The draft law was discussed by the Council of the Nation (the upper house of the Algerian parliament) on Monday, 10 April, in preparation for Thursday’s vote; it was previously ratified by the People’s National Assembly (the lower house of the country’s parliament) on 28 March.
Article 4 of the draft law includes potentially discriminatory provisions, such as the prohibition of Algerians with dual nationality from investing in the media sector, and the limiting of this investment opportunity to those with Algerian nationality only. This is a clear violation of Article 32 of Algeria’s constitution, which states that “all citizens shall be equal before the law. No pretext for discrimination on the basis of birth, race, gender, opinion or any other personal or social condition or situation shall be admissible.”
The draft law may also restrict or limit the ability of journalists and other members of the media to interact and cooperate with their counterparts abroad, as it requires citizens to obtain an “accreditation” to work for foreign media within Algeria. Consequently, government agencies are given absolute power and control in determining the identity of those working with foreign media, which raises serious concerns about Algerians’ enjoyment of complete liberty with regard to their journalistic work.
Furthermore, the draft law includes broadly worded provisions that impose financial fines of up to $14,000 USD (approximately 12,835 euros) on anyone who receives funding or subsidies from a “foreign entity”, and requires them to prove the source of investment funds in the field of media and communication, which could be used arbitrarily to restrict journalists’ work with foreign media. The draft also requires journalists to reveal their sources to the judiciary, limiting journalists’ and the media’s ability to prepare and publish investigative reports, especially on issues of public concern, for fear of exposing their sources to prosecution or reprisals.
Moreover, the draft law includes the establishment of an authority to regulate the print and electronic media in the country—in addition to the existing authority that regulates audio-visual activities, which is tasked with monitoring the work of TV channels. This would increase censorship of journalists and media activists in cyberspace and unfairly persecute them, limiting the freedom of journalistic work even further.
Algeria’s parliament must reconsider all articles of the draft organic law that would likely contribute to heightened restrictions on media freedom and journalistic work, as well as the broadly worded provisions that would allow officials to interpret them subjectively and use them unjustifiably. Euro-Med Monitor urges the parliament to convene an in-depth dialogue with all relevant media, academic, legal, and political components in order to reach an agreement on all provisions of the draft law, ensuring compliance with relevant local laws and international human rights charters, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights—both of which Algeria has ratified—and other international legislation and covenants concerning free expression and press freedom.