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Algeria invites activists to check press freedoms

Groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have regularly accused Algiers of cracking down on journalists and activists

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Algeria’s communications minister invited right groups to visit and check on media freedoms, in a rare move in the North African state where foreign criticism has often been rejected as interference.

Groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have regularly accused Algiers of cracking down on journalists and activists.

“I urge international NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to visit Algeria, to read its press before making judgements ... We are an open country,” Hamid Grine said in his office.

Algeria has allowed local television to host more political debates since “Arab Spring” uprisings toppled rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in 2011.

Cartoonists and columnists often mock veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, army generals and ministers in the Algerian press.

But New York-based Human Rights Watch this week reported authorities had arrested rights activist Rachid Aouine for mocking the police on social media.

“Algerian authorities need to change the laws against peaceful protest and stop sending protesters to prison,” the organization said.

Grine acknowledged journalists often struggled to get access to officials in the country, saying his ministry was stepping up training of press officers.

“We told them never lie to a journalist, answer his calls,” Grine said.