Dozen journalists arrested at censorship protest in Algiers

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Algerian police arrested a dozen journalists participating in a rally on Thursday against alleged censorship of coverage of protests against a fifth term for veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, an AFP correspondent reported.

Around 100 print and broadcast journalists, working for both state-owned and private outlets, joined the demonstration in central Algiers against reporting restrictions they say have been imposed by media bosses on the protests that broke out last Friday.

“Free our colleagues,” the remaining demonstrators shouted as those arrested were driven off in the back of police vans.

“Fourth estate, not a press that follows orders.”

Daily demonstrations

Algeria has been hit by a wave of protests over the ailing Bouteflika’s announcement he will seek a fifth term in an April 18 election despite using a wheelchair and making few public appearance since suffering a stroke in 2013.

Tens of thousands took part in the first protests last Friday, and there have been further demonstrations daily since, both in the provinces and in the capital, where demonstrations are illegal.

But for several days, both the state broadcaster and private channels owned by media magnates close to the government kept silent about the protests.

State radio journalists said they had been ordered by management not to cover them.

Press watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) accused Algerian authorities on Tuesday of seeking to “muzzle” the media.

Bouteflika, 81, flew to Switzerland on Sunday for what the presidency called “routine medical checks” ahead of the election.