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Authorities block foreign media coverage of FIS leaders' release

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has condemned the Algerian authorities' attempts to censor foreign press coverage of the recent release of two historic leaders of the banned Islamic Salvation Front (Front islamique du Salut, FIS), Abassi Madani and Ali Belhadj, on completion of their prison sentences. The government's efforts target foreign journalists, including those based in Algeria and visiting special correspondents.

"This ban affecting the entire [foreign] press corps is truly shocking and virtually unprecedented," RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard said. "Only a few regimes have tried to impose a news blackout on a specific event in recent times," he said, citing the arrest of Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma in May 2003 and the SARS epidemic in China in April.

"Warnings issued in telephone calls by the Algerian Communication Ministry and threats to withdraw the accreditation of foreign journalists are crude and archaic methods," Ménard said. "It is illusory for the Algerian authorities to imagine that they can prevent all news of the releases from getting out," he added.

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