RSF decries Algeria’s plan to “clean up” TV broadcasting

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned about Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal’s announcement on 23 May that he has asked communication minister Hamid Grine to “clean up” the broadcasting sector, in which more than 50 privately-owned TV channels are operating without permission.

RSF calls on the government to quickly set up the independent broadcasting regulatory authority envisaged under the 2012 Information Code instead of giving itself a blank cheque to grant and refuse licences, and close down broadcasters that are denied them.

The prime minister said the aim of his draconian initiative was to stop those broadcasters that are “crossing red lines” and are attacking “the values and principles of Algerian society” and the “nation’s foundations.”

The plan includes provision for approval to be granted on the basis of a list of rights and obligations for TV broadcasters. The prime minister said that the communication minister would be in charge of the reform “pending the creation of the broadacast media regulatory authority.”

This initiative by the Algerian goverment is disturbing because it gives the executive full power to grant or deny licences to TV channels,” said Yasmine Kacha, the head of RSF’s North Africa desk.

A wiser first step would be to fully establish the independent broadcasting authority with responsiblity under article 55 of the the 2014 Broadcasting Law for examining applications for the provision of broadcasting services. Although this authority is not in charge of granting licences, its existence would, to some extent, constitute a guarantee of a free press independent of political control.”

Only four of the 58 TV channels currently operating in Algeria actually have permission to do so. These four channels, Dzair TV, Ennahar TV, El Djazair and Echourouk TV, are all known for being not very critical of the government.

The authorities have closed two TV channels in the past two years, Al Atlas TV in 2014 and El Watan TV in 2015. RSF criticized these closures at the time as politically-motivated punishments for their editorial policies.

Algeria is ranked 129th out of 180 countries inRSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.