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Newspaper supplement banned after reporting on corruption

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) expressed concern over a recent decision by the prosecutor of Sidi Mohamed Court in Algeria. The prosecutor banned "Sirry Lelghaya" (Highly Classified), a supplement of "Al Monaqsa" newspaper, as of 3 November 2009, claiming it was unlicensed. However, the newspaper is in fact licensed to publish the supplement, and also regularly publishes three other supplements.

The prosecutor's decision was issued in accordance with the Information Act of 4/4/1990 and the Penal Code. This legislation grants the judiciary the power to ban and fine newspapers and prosecute its workers and journalists.

According to the newspaper's staff, the decision is linked to the paper's reports on cases of corruption. Most importantly, the latest issue of "Sirry Lelghaya" contained an article entitled, "Mayors . . . from Students to Experts in Misusing Public Money". The article reported, with sufficient evidence, on corruption in the municipality of central Algeria and the embezzlement of public funds. The newspaper editor-in-chief received a direct threat from the mayor of the municipality of central Algeria over the article.

ANHRI declares that the current situation of the Algerian press is "catastrophic". A mayor has now been given the authority to close down a newspaper supplement, even though its reporting was backed up by sufficient evidence.

According to ANHRI, the banning comes at a time where the Algerian media needs more openness. Gamal Eid, ANHRI's executive director, considered that the decision to ban the supplement (which is published fortnightly and has released 19 issues) "raises a question about the independence of the institutions and bodies responsible for regulating media." He added that this decision reflects these institutions' subordination to the state.

Eid stressed that, "The banning is a step backwards taken by the Algerian government to threaten freedom of the press and freedom of expression." He called on the government to reconsider the banning and open an investigation into the newspaper's accusations that officials have been misusing public funds.

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