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Algeria bans foreign ownership of media

The new law has been condemned by Reporters without Borders and other rights bodies

April 14, 2023 at 9:22 am

The Algerian Council of the Nation approved a new media law yesterday, tightening control on journalists’ work and imposing new restrictions and penalties for violations. Among the main provisions of the text approved by the National People’s Council on 28 March, is the prohibition of Algerian media outlets from receiving any funding or material assistance, directly or indirectly, from any “foreign entity”.

The law includes journalists’ rights to “protect their sources” but requires them to disclose them to the judiciary if requested. It also effectively excludes dual nationals from the right to own or contribute to the ownership of a media outlet in Algeria.

However, the Council of the Nation members expressed reservations about Article 22 of the text, which relates to the conditions for obtaining “accreditation” to work in Algeria for foreign media outlets. Members of the Senate, in particular, considered the 30-day period “insufficient” to receive the required accreditation from the date of application.

The new law imposes a fine of up to one million dinars (around $6,200) on those who work for a foreign media outlet without obtaining accreditation.

Sharif Idris, a professor of political science at the University of Algeria, said: “We must wait for the executive texts to know whether we are facing a pioneering law compared to the old law or whether it reproduces the same old pattern.” He expressed regret that “the issuance of executive texts is still slow” in Algeria.

Several council members noted the absence of accompanying executive texts for the draft law during the debates. Algeria ranks 134th out of 180 countries in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

On 2 April, a court sentenced Algerian journalist Ihsan Al-Qadi, detained since December, to five years in prison on charges of receiving foreign funds.

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