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AFP bureau chief and Reuters correspondent have their accreditation withdrawn following alleged "defamation"; court fines "Liberté" publisher, editor and cartoonist

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned the Algerian government's inability to tolerate criticism after the communication ministry stripped the Agence France-Presse bureau chief and the Reuters correspondent in Algiers of their accreditation on 10 June 2008, and a court fined the daily "Liberté"'s publisher and editor and one of its cartoonists for defamation on 16 June.

"The lack of tolerance for outspoken journalists has created a climate of mistrust that is having a grave impact on the media," Reporters Without Borders said. "The AFP and Reuters correspondents have paid the price, even if these two agencies are still allowed to operate. This is no longer the case for the Qatar-based satellite TV station Al-Jazeera, which was forced to close its Algiers bureau four years ago as a punitive measure."

AFP's bureau chief and Reuters' correspondent had their accreditation withdrawn after reporting on terrorist activity. The authorities said AFP "exaggerated" the toll of two bombings at the station in Béni Amrane, a town 50 km east of Algiers, on 10 June. Reuters was accused of reporting a bombing that did not take place. Both news agencies published the interior ministry's denials.

Furthermore, on 16 June a court in the municipality of Sidi M'hamed, in Algiers province fined "Liberté" publisher Ali Ouafak, editor Farid Alilat and cartoonist Ali Dilem 20,000 dinars (approx. 200 euros) following the publication of a cartoon of former armed forces chief of staff Lt. Gen. Mohamed Lamari that was held to be defamatory. The lawsuit was brought by the defence ministry.

Al-Jazeera's activities in Algeria were "temporarily" suspended by the ministry of culture and communication in June 2004 but, four years later, it has still not been allowed to resume operating. Since 2004, Al-Jazeera has been covering Algeria from Morocco.

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