After the advent of the current popular and unprecedented movements in the MENA region streets, there seems to be no end in view. Some are calling for a radical change of system, the international community is having a detached view, at least formally, about this or that country. But there is Canada, which, through its ambassador in Algiers, has notably demonstrated support for this movement of street demonstrations, last June. Few NGOs have recently denounced the arrests of activists, journalists and the violation of freedoms, very few capitals have bothered to comment on “The Algerian Turmoil”, events taking place in Algeria for eight months now.
This apparent detachment reflects the difficulty for many countries to position themselves vis-à-vis a country that has probably been decreed anaesthetized. A country where the stakes, both economic and geostrategic, do not appear to be that important.
The lockdown of the media field in Algeria has increased in recent weeks and even goes beyond national borders. Following a complaint filed by the Algerian authorities with the France domiciled company, Eutelsat, Al Magharibia TV has stopped broadcasting since Tuesday afternoon 15 October 2019. “The Algerian government has put pressure on the company to take this step,” Al Magharibia TV officials said, citing a document from satellite service providers.
How about those TV channels dedicated to the Kurdish or any other MENA region’s socio-political movements as alternatives to the officially backed ones?
It is a real war waged by the Algerian authorities against all conventional mass media and social networks that continue to resist the established order in its mission to provide news of any free movement such as the Heerak to the national and international public. As a reminder, Al Magharibia TV is a British domiciled television channel created in early 2011 by Algerian businessmen. Initially, although the channel promoted ideology close to political Islam, it has become an audiovisual platform for the entire Algerian opposition, establishing itself in the North African media scene as a daily coverage provider of the on-going Heerak.
In all MENA region countries, be they Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, and countries of the GCC, usage of censorship, site blocking, closure of Facebook pages, pressure on satellite service providers, cancellation of accreditation to foreign journalists, arrests of national and international journalists, all means are good at silencing dissenting and autonomous voices.
Practices that are beginning to worry about human rights NGOs as well as United Nations institutions. In the meantime, “all necessary legal measures will be taken to restore the channel’s (Al Magharibia) broadcast,” reassures its management. The latter condemns the approach of the government and EUTELSAT. For the chain’s officials, only justice could make such a decision.
TV and radio channels, the first victims
Public and private television channels, as well as public radio stations, are the first victims of this lockdown. After the resignation of the Algerian Head of State last April, the TV channels were instructed not to cover all streets demonstrations every Friday and Tuesday and to refrain from inviting on people who oppose the planned roadmap.
Gradually, all television channels in Algeria gave in and worse, some channels have become springboards for the regime’s propaganda.
Foreign correspondents under embargo
After the national TV channels, the government took care of the international press correspondents. The director of AFP office in Algeria, Aymeric Vincenot, was ordered last April to leave the country.
Foreign media wanting to cover the Heerak were not allowed to come. Applications for accreditation of international media in Algeria remain unanswered. Things don’t stop there, Algerian journalists working freelance with foreign media are monitored and summoned by the security services.