Media watchdog urges Algeria to probe violence against journalists

Algiers, March 17 (AFP/APP):Press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday urged Algerian authorities to investigate violence against journalists at an anti-government demonstration last week.
RSF “calls on the Algerian authorities to investigate the violence against 10 journalists… so that those responsible can be identified and prosecuted,” the group said in a statement.
Last Friday, protesters assaulted a group of journalists at a protest of the Hirak pro-democracy movement in the capital Algiers.
“The violence began at around 3:30 pm, when demonstrators attacked France 24 correspondent Abdelkader Kamli, accusing him of biased reporting,” RSF said.
Citing another journalist at the scene, it said several reporters tried to protect Kamli but were in turn attacked.
“This type of abuse must on no account remain unpunished,” said RSF’s Souhaieb Khayati.
“It is as incomprehensible as it is unacceptable that demonstrators used violence against journalists who, despite the risk of arrest, have constantly covered a protest movement for more than a year.”
It is not the first time demonstrators have shown animosity towards journalists or accused them of siding with the regime.
Some reporters working for French outlets have also been accused of representing a country seen as a supporter of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
A day after the violence, Algerian authorities threatened to withdraw France 24’s media accreditation for good, alleging “blatant bias” in its coverage of the protest movement.
“We are trying to do our work as honestly as possible,” France 24 director Marc Saikali told AFP on Saturday. “We’re just doing our job within the rules which have been set out.
“We don’t take sides, and we certainly don’t have any kind of agenda aimed at destroying anything.”
The Hirak movement broke out in February 2019 in outrage at then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office.
The ailing leader was forced to step down weeks later, but the movement continued with demonstrations, demanding a sweeping overhaul of a ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.

Since its second anniversary on February 22, the Hirak has restarted weekly Friday protests, suspended for almost a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
RSF ranked Algeria 146 out of 180 countries and territories in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, a drop of 27 places from 2015.

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