Press freedom is an essential condition for free and fair elections. This includes the coverage accorded the various parties and candidates and the flow of information more generally that will influence Algerians' decisions about whom to elect. For example, authorities make frequent claims that terrorism is "residual" and have accused the press of blowing it out of proportion.67 In assessing whether the present policies pursued toward political violence are succeeding, Algerians need accurate information about the nature and extent of political violence in their country. But this is the area where press censorship is most strict.

Government restrictions on expression in Algeria violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Algeria has ratified. The ICCPR states in Article 19(2):

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

The Covenant allows certain restrictions on this right, including for the protection of national security or of public order (Article 19(3)(b)). Derogations are also permitted in the event of "a public emergency which threatensthe life of the nation and the existence of which is officially the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation." (Article 4(1)). The Government of Algeria exercised the option provided in Article 4(3) for taking derogations by informing the United Nations Secretary-General of the imposition of the state of emergency (see above).

As the examples provided below demonstrate, most of the Algerian government's actions against the press since 1992 seem primarily designed to inhibit criticism of government officials and institutions, and to muzzle independent reporting and commentary on the internal security situation. These actions go well beyond the "extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation" to protect "the life of the nation."

After massive street riots and protests over political and economic conditions in November 1988, the state and ruling party ended their monopoly over the media. Dozens of private dailies and weeklies and political party organs were launched. Radio, television, and the main news agency (Algerie Presse Service, or APS) remained in state hands, but they broadened their coverage to include hitherto taboo subjects, such as demands for Berber cultural and linguistic rights, and provided access to politicians critical of the authorities, including the leaders of the FIS. Algerian media emerged as among the liveliest in the Arab world. The print press continues to tackle some issues generally untouched in other parts of the region. It gives coverage to politicians and parties that are critical of the authorities, and is free, within certain limits to expose social ills and question aspects of the government's performance.

Since 1992 however, press freedom has been steadily eroded by government pressures, censorship, and financial constraints, as well as by the violence against journalists that is generally attributed to Islamist groups. The erosion has been most dramatic at Algerian television and radio, which have reverted to being government mouthpieces (see below).

No discussion of press freedom is possible without considering the assassination campaign that has cost the lives of some fifty-nine journalists and media workers since 1993.68 Others have been wounded in assassination attempts. Although individual killings have rarely been followed by claims of responsibility or court trials that identified the culprits, it is clear from publicly issued threats and occasional claims of responsibility that armed Islamist groups, and particularly the GIA, are responsible for many, if not most, of these assassinations.

Statements attributed to Islamist groups have railed against a pro-government bias in the media. In fact, the journalists and others who have been slain do not share any particular political affiliation; some were secularist but critical of the government, while others had Islamist sympathies. The target of the violence has been the media in general, and the victims have included editors, reporters, photographers, proofreaders, and drivers, both men and women apparently perceived as working either to promote the government's version of the conflict or to undermine the Islamist movement by failing openly to support it.

The campaign of violence against journalists has clearly affected the ability of the press to inform the public. In addition to the members of the profession who have been killed, many have fled to other countries, fearing for their lives; others have dropped out of the profession. Those who continue to work take precautions such as sleeping in different locations, avoiding daily routines that might facilitate the work of an assassin, and skipping on-site reporting that they might otherwise undertake. All of this has taken a heavy toll on the ability of media to inform their readers.

The government has exercised vigorous censorship of the independent press through various means, ranging from banning newspapers and jailing reporters to exerting financial pressures on the private print media, which in 1996 accounted for 77 percent of the total print press volume and 83 percent of sales.69 The issues subjected to censorship are important to voters choosing a national assembly, including security, human rights, and criticism of the government's handling of the economy.

The 1990 press code provides the basis for significant restrictions on the press. It allows for the prosecution of journalists, editors and publishers for dissemination of "harmful" information. Article 86 provides five-to-ten-year prison sentences and fines for deliberately publishing or spreading "false or misleading information capable of harming national order or state security." Article 87 states:

The incitement by means of any information media to crimes or misdemeanors against state security or national unity, when the incitement produces these consequences, shall subject the director of the publication and the author of the offending article to penal sanctions as accomplices to the crimes and misdemeanors that are committed. If the provocation produces no consequences, the director and the author shall be punished by imprisonment of one to five years and a fine of 10,000 to 100,000 dinars, or one of the two.

The Penal Code has also been used to prosecute journalists for defaming state institutions and agencies. Article 96 provides that anyone who disseminates, with an intent to persuade others, material "that may harm the national interest" is subject to a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to 36,000 Algerian dinars (approximately U.S.$640 at the official rate). Article 144 provides that anyone who wilfully causes grave offense to employees of the government in terms of the performance of their duties, shall be subject to a prison sentence and a fine. Article 146 provides punishments for giving grave offense to state institutions, and Article 147 for acts or words that "aim to discredit judicial decisions and that may harm the authority and independence of the judiciary." Several journalists who have written critically about the authorities or about the judiciary have been charged under these articles (see below).

The 1992 state of emergency decrees provide for punishments for the publication or distribution of documents that attack symbols of the state, or "obstruct" the authorities. They define "terrorism" and "subversion" to include, among other things, acts "directed at state security, territorial integrity, the stability and normal functioning of institutions," whose purpose is to "impede the functioning of public institutions or harming the life or property of their agents, or impeding the application of laws or regulations."70 Article 4 of the same decree goes well beyond Article 87 of the press code, and well beyond international law, by punishing not just "incitement" but also "expressions of sympathy for" and "encouragement" of proscribed acts.

Since 1992, according to Reporters sans frontières (RSF), a press freedom organization based in France, at least twenty-three journalists have been detained, thirty-nine have received summons to appear in court, and there have been fifty-eight incidents involving the seizure, suspension or banning of dailies or weeklies in connection with security matters or criticism of the authorities.71

In January 1993, when the pace of attacks by armed opposition groups was accelerating, the government began implementing regulations, through circulars and directives, that prevent media from publishing unauthorizedinformation about the actions of the security forces and of the armed groups. In March 1994, the government issued a circular to the press instructing editors-in-chief to publish security-related information only if it was obtained from the official APS news agency. In February 1996 the interior ministry established "reading committees" at the print media to censor news reports that do not conform to the instructions. Journalists and senior editors of private newspapers told us that the reading committee scrutinizes all security-related reports, advises the editor on what to censor and may remove a page or ban the day's edition altogether if its advice has not been followed.

As a result of the security-related censorship, newspapers print almost nothing about losses sustained by security forces or reports implicating the regular security forces or paramilitary forces, in attacks on civilians or other human rights abuses. They are permitted to cover killings and massacres of civilians attributed by authorities to armed Islamist extremists, although the press has at different times been instructed either to play up or play down this sort of news and has been prevented from conducting independent investigations into massacres and reporting on its findings.

During a spate of rural massacres in January, many of which were covered in the local press, Interior Minister Mustafa Benmansour accused journalists of "exaggerating the number of victims or even inventing acts of terrorism," and threatened unspecified sanctions against media that "play the game of terrorist propaganda."72 His statements came a day after President Zéroual gave a televised address concerning the violence, promising to intensify efforts to wipe out "terrorism." Following the interior minister's warning, coverage of the massacres diminished in the private press. However, in April, papers resumed detailed stories of the carnage attributed to the armed groups, featuring quotes from survivors, the names of victims and their families, and photos of bodies in shrouds and damaged homes.

These mixed signals apparently reflect the authorities' conflicting objectives of wishing to minimize the capabilities of the armed groups and at the same time to publicize atrocities attributed to them in order to rally support for a tough security response. Salima Ghezali has said that the newspaper she edits, La Nation, refuses to cover security incidents because it believes that government restrictions on coverage make objective reporting impossible.

Belhadj Abdel Razek, director of the office of public liberties at the Interior Ministry, minimized the extent of state interference in the press. While acknowledging that his ministry had exerted control on the press "briefly" after the presidential elections, he stated, "If there is now any censor committee at the printing press level, I don't know about it, it is not our domain. We try not to control the press. Although they publish many lies and inaccuracies and we ask them to publish corrections, we don't take them to court for it."73

Some newspapers with well-placed security contacts sometimes publish their own reports of security incidents without repercussions-so long as the information does not displease the authorities. In addition, four or five private papers have sometimes, in defiance of the restrictions, coordinated the publication on a given day of the same, independently obtained report, making it politically more difficult for the authorities to seize all the papers for the day, according to several Algerian journalists working for private newspapers. According to these journalists and other observers, when official coverage of a security-related incident is allowed, such as an attack attributed to Islamists, reporters for the Algerian media are generally escorted as a group by armed members of the security forces, who generally remain present during interviews with survivors or eyewitnesses. "When reporters go to the site of a massacre, the security forces block the place and we can't get close to it. Sometimes the forces allow some journalists to take pictures, conduct interviews with family members, but journalists are never free to go on theirown," a journalist working for an Algerian daily and who asked to remain anonymous told us. While most attacks by armed groups in rural areas have been attributed by authorities to Islamist groups, the "self-defense" militia are suspected in some of them, many Algerians told us. However, even if these areas were open to reporters who wished to investigate, state censorship would prevent the dissemination of any findings that implicated the military-backed militia or regular security forces.

Foreign journalists must obtain visas to visit Algeria, which are sometimes refused. Roula Khalaf of the Financial Times was denied a visa during the early months of 1997, although she was granted one in May, during the election campaign. In 1996, the authorities withdrew the accreditation of two Spanish correspondents, Ferran Sales of the daily El Pais (Madrid) and Tahar Majdoub of the EFE agency. Those who are allowed in are assigned security force escorts by the foreign press center attached to the foreign ministry, ostensibly for their own protection. Authorities reject attempts by journalists to waive this escort. Resident foreign journalists are allowed to move free of escorts, but their coverage of security-related incidents, such as the recent rural massacres, is tightly controlled by military security or government-backed militia who have accompanied reporters to the scene of the incident and have remained nearby during interviews with witnesses or survivors.

Visiting foreign reporters have complained that the "protection" hampers their freedom of movement and often intimidates people they wish to interview. Peter Strandberg, a journalist for several European newspapers, said that when he traveled in April to Tizi-Ouzou, a provincial capital east of Algiers, he was accompanied by some twenty-five military personnel in army vehicles, six of them in plainclothes. They accompanied him, over his objections, into a coffeehouse, a textile factory, a mosque and a school. The plainclothes escorts later asked some of the people Strandberg spoke to for an account of their conversation, Strandberg said. He complained about the interference to the press center but got no reply.74

Government efforts to restrict the media extend far beyond security topics, and affect reporting about corruption, criticism of government personalities, and other issues that might displease those in power. "The press liberties in theory consolidate a liberal political system, but on the ground the realities are different," said Khaled Bourayou, a lawyer representing a number of independent newspapers. "Some of the Algerian press is against Islamic fundamentalism, but it is also against the system which is still tainted by single-party rule and is not transparent. So as soon as the press denounces the economic and political mafia," they face trouble.75

The French-language daily El-Watan faced charges of defamation in October 1995 and its editor-in-chief and reporter were placed under court supervision when it published a report about the import of medical equipment and the alleged embezzlement of government funds.76

The editor-in-chief and a reporter of another French-language independent daily, Liberté, were given suspended prison sentences in December 1995 for writing that a presidential advisor was to be promoted to defense minister, while at the same time publishing a story critical of him.77 (President Zéroual held, and continues to hold the defense portfolio.)

La Tribune, a French-language daily, was suspended for six months and its publisher and editor given one-year suspended sentences in September 1996 for a satirical cartoon that "profaned" the Algerian flag. After a month in preventive detention, the cartoonist, Chawki Amari, was given a suspended three-year sentence for desecrating a national emblem by his cartoon printed on July 2. It showed two men walking underneath flags draped across a street. "Is this for the July 5 celebration (Algerian independence day)?" asks one man. "No, they are hanging out their dirty laundry," replies the other man.

When the paper resumed publication, Amari and editor-in-chief Baya Gacemi quit their posts. Since its resumption, Ms. Gacemi said La Tribune has moderated its criticism of the authorities. "The editorial management has adopted a different strategy, to avoid any problems and not to take any risks," she observed.78

Journalists have also been detained without charge by the government, and have sometimes "disappeared" for periods of time. A journalist recently detained without charge or trial told us of his experience. Mohammed Yousfi, formerly with Al-'Alam Al-Siyassi, an Arabic daily that reflects varied viewpoints, including Islamist ones, was arrested in his hotel room on March 5 as he was attending a conference on the rule of law in Tizi-Ouzou:

Two armed men entered my hotel room at three o'clock in the morning, they flashed a strong light in my face and pointed their guns at my chest. I was paralyzed with fear. They didn't identify themselves. They searched my room and dragged me out to a car and pushed me inside, lowering my head to the ground.

Yousfi said he was kept for fifteen days in numerous detention centers that he could not identify, since he had been blindfolded when he was transferred. He recalled:

When they brought me in court, the prosecutor looked confused and said he had no charge against me. The judge acquitted me immediately. I demanded compensation, but the judge told me I should just be relieved that I am free.79

Abdelkader Hadj Benaamane, a journalist at the official APS news agency, was freed on April 2 on parole, after spending more than two years of a three-year sentence in prison, handed down by a military court. He had been arrested in connection with a report he had filed on the internal APS wire disclosing the place where Ali Belhadj, the second in command of the FIS, was held. The internal APS wire goes to the President and government ministers. Benaamane disappeared February 27, 1995, and his whereabouts were unknown until El-Watan reported almost two months later that he had been arrested.

The fate of at least three other journalists who have "disappeared" over the last three years remains unknown. Djamel Fahassi, a journalist with Islamist sympathies at Algiers Radio, was arrested on May 6, 1995. He had been jailed twice before since 1991. His wife, Safia, stated that neighbors said they witnessed him being taken from his home in el-Harrache by men they believed to belong to the security forces. In response to her inquiries, she has received no official information about his whereabouts other than a statement by the Ministry of Justice that there was no record of his arrest at el-Harrache's local police station.80

In two other cases, the identity of those responsible is more unclear. Mohammed Hassaine, reporter for Alger Républicain, was abducted by unknown persons in March 1994; Kadour Bouselham, of the state-owned Horizon, has been missing since October 29, 1994.81

A recent case is that of Aziz Bouabdallah, journalist with the Arabic-language daily Al-Alam al-Siyassi who was taken from his home on April 12, 1997 by three men who introduced themselves as members of the security forces. His family has been unable to obtain information on his whereabouts, but Amnesty International reported that, according to information it had received, he was being held in the Chateauneuf military security center in Algiers.82

The government also resorts to a combination of financial pressure and strong-arm tactics to keep in line the private press through its domination of the country's printing presses, imported newsprint supplies and advertising budgets. In 1996, the interior ministry banned weeklies and dailies on at least six occasions. These include El-Watan, censored on April 24 and May 7 when the Algerian government-owned Algiers Printing Press (Société d'Impression d'Alger, SIA) refused to print the issues. Journalists at the paper attributed the censorship to the coverage of government counterinsurgency operations.83

The press that has been hit hardest by government control has been the pro-Islamist and Islamist-leaning press, most of it published in Arabic. The first to be closed were the organs of the FIS, El-Mounquidh and El-Forqane, in February 1992. At least four Arabic-language dailies and weeklies were suspended by the authorities between 1992 and 1995 and have not reappeared since. They include Assah Afa, a satirical weekly suspended and accused in August 1992 of being a de facto FIS "mouthpiece" and Djazair el-Yom, suspended twice in 1992 and again in 1993.

The governmental printing houses have altered their past practice by requiring some of its private customers to remain completely current on their bills. These include La Nation and its Arabic-language sister weekly, al-Hourria, private papers that favored the National Contract (see above) and wrote critically of the 1995 presidential elections. Neither has been able to resume publication since December 1996, when the Algiers Printing Press (SIA) refused to print the papers until they paid their debts.84

La Nation had been suspended at least nine times between January 1995 and December 1996. Its owner was charged with "endangering state security," following an interview with a FIS leader Abdelkader Omar in August 1995. No official reasons were given for the suspensions. In one instance, the issue carried a large report on human rights in Algeria co-published with Le Monde Diplomatique in March 1996. In another instance the issue of Al-Hourria featured a review of a book on human rights in Algeria.

Algeria's four operating printing presses are all state-run. The sole private press, Sodipresse, was closed down in April, less than three months after its launching. One owner, Saad Lounas, was arrested on April 10, 1997 and sentenced to thirty months in prison on April 28 for allegedly writing a check with insufficient funds to thepublic-sector Algiers Printing Press (SIA). Lounas has appealed his sentence. He is also editor of an Arabic-language daily El-Oumma, which has not been published since the closure of Sodipresse.

El-Oumma and the Arabic-language weekly Ech-Chorouk, which was also printed by Sodipresse, both favor a political dialogue with Islamists. Journalists at El-Oumma charged that Lounes's arrest was meant to "wreck the first private printing venture and to prevent the publication of El-Oumma at all cost."85 Whatever the merits of the charges against Lounas, we note that, as a result of the collapse of Sodipresse, the Algerian media are again without a private printing press.

Ech-Chorouk's editors have been charged some twenty times in the last five years for "insulting personalities of authority" and "inciting rebellion," according to editor-in-chief Ali Fodhil.86 At the same time, three members of the staff, two of them women, were killed since 1995 in attacks blamed widely on the armed Islamist groups. Journalist Malika Sabour was killed in May 1995 after receiving death threats in the name of the GIA. Khadija Dahnani, a graduate in Islamic theology who wrote political and economic stories critical of the government, was killed near her home in December 1995. Hamaoui Mokrane, marketing director at Ech-Chorouk, was killed in October 1996 by gunmen who fired at his car. The government said security forces later shot dead his killers.

The state-run publishing house Entreprise Nationale Algérienne de Presse cited unpaid bills when, in February 1997, it stopped printing Ech-Chorouk, which claims a circulation of 250,000. The paper filed a suit claiming ENAP had not honored its contract, and in March a civil court ordered ENAP to resume printing Ech-Chorouk. An appeals court upheld the ruling at the end of April, but two weeks later the paper was still not in print. In May, Fodhil, the editor, told us, "The ENAP has given us no reason. They can't point to a debt because the court has ruled that there was none. So for the moment we are still suspended."87

Broadcast media

Algeria's twenty-eight million citizens are spread out over the second largest country on the African continent. The illiteracy rate is estimated to be 43 percent.88 These features reinforce the importance of broadcast media as sources of political news. In Algeria, all radio and television stations are government-controlled. Stations broadcast in the Arabic, French and Tamazight languages.

The 1990 press code requires in Article 10 that broadcast media "assure equal access to expression for currents of opinion and thought," and "under no circumstances [are] to take into consideration influences or considerations that would compromise the accuracy of information." Since 1992, radio and especially television have strayed far from these principles, becoming more like the government mouthpieces they were during the quarter-century of one-party rule. A columnist in the daily El-Watan recently observed, "Censorship has hit television hard, not only with regard to images of violence but also any images that are not in line with the official discourse. The rare "moments of truth" serve political or electoral calculations; they respond generally to concerns about timing but never to a simple concern to inform."89

Many Algerians watch European television broadcasts via satellite, and sometimes first hear news about their country on foreign channels, especially concerning security issues or the positions of political parties critical of the authorities. Radio remains somewhat livelier and more varied in its political coverage. Interviews with and coverage of opposition figures and parties are more frequent.

The government assigned the National Independent Elections Observation Commission (CNISEL) the task of apportioning airtime on broadcast media for each of the parties and independent candidates competing in the elections. The election law states, in Article 175, that the CNISEL is to allocate radio and television time "according to the respective number of candidates presented by each political party or group of political parties." Independent candidates may qualify for air time by forming groups among themselves.

The 1997 elections law sets guidelines for the conduct of the campaign. Some of those guidelines infringe on the right to freedom of expression. Article 174 says, "The use of foreign languages during the electoral campaign is forbidden." The Constitution says in Article 3 that "Arabic is the national and official language." A significant percentage of the population speak a Berber language, Tamazight, that is unrelated to Arabic. Some Algerians consider French to be their first language. The election law also requires candidates to refrain from "any disloyal, dishonorable, illegal or immoral gesture, attitude, action or behavior," (Article 181) The wording of this prohibition is disturbingly broad.

Human Rights Watch is aware of at least two instances in which the CNISEL ordered parties to alter the content of campaign materials submitted for television broadcast. FFS spokesman Ali Rachedi said that his party was asked to change a five-minute message that one of its leaders, Seddik Debaili, had recorded for broadcast May 16 because he used the term "coup d'état" when referring to the military-backed cancellation of elections in 1992 and forced resignation of the president. Rachedi charged that while there was no censor at the recording studio, recorded material submitted to television by the parties was presented to the Interior Ministry for approval.90

The CNISEL also censored a television message by the PT, a small leftist party that supports the National Contract platform. The PT said it had learned only through a report in El-Watan daily that its spot would not be broadcast on May 15, 1997. According to a PT communique issued the same day, the newspaper reported that PT president Louisa Hanoune's spots, recorded by Algerian television "will not be broadcast...That was the CNISEL's decision after it was notified by the interior ministry that the contents of two recordings by the leader of the PT were judged to consist of an attack on a public institution." The offending phrase apparently was Hanoune's reference to the events of January 1992 as a "military coup."

However, candidates, in the context of their allocated airtime, have been able to make statements that directly challenge government policy, including the exclusion of the FIS from the political process. For example, one week later, Ms. Hanoune appeared in a television campaign spot warning that Algeria's conflict cannot end without the participation of all parties. "Therefore, all politicians, including the FIS leaders, should sit down and try to find a peaceful solution..."91

The CNISEL issued a directive that, beginning one week before the launch of the election campaign, the media would cease covering the official activities of cabinet ministers running in the elections to avoid giving them an advantage over their rivals. The newly formed pro-government RND includes at least eight cabinet ministers, among them the prime minister, and interior minister. All are election candidates. Other parties, such as the MSP, also have government ministers running in the elections.

During Human Rights Watch's two-week mission in Algiers, state television featured news, public announcements and talk shows concerning the elections. Before and after the 7 p.m. newscast, viewers were urged to fulfill their duty by going to the ballot box. "This is an appointment with history and an extraordinary operation," said Laamri Bel'Arbi, an official from the Culture Ministry explaining the role of media in a program on the forthcoming elections. "The president's assurance that the state media is used for public welfare is a good guarantee that television will be deployed in total neutrality" for the elections.92 The television was also filled with favorable coverage of cabinet ministers and government achievements, such as a new state-run natural gas project that promised employment opportunities, and programs to assist camel herders in remote desert areas. Political party leaders were shown only infrequently on newscasts. These included MSP head Mahfoudh Nahnah, who was shown urging his party members to go to the polls.93

Some parties complained that they got no television coverage whatsoever in the months leading up to the elections. Seddik Debaili, first secretary of the FFS, a major political party that supports the National Contract (see above), said that state television (ENTV) did not cover two of their regional congresses early April. "The independent press reported our meetings, and we had interviews on the Arabic and French radio stations, but ENTV did not cover our meetings, although they were invited," he said. He added that the pro-government RND's founding congress had been covered extensively.94

While allocating campaign airtime to parties fielding candidates, including those belonging to opposition parties, Algerian television tends not to cover events organized by political groupings whose views are in disfavor with the authorities. The Call for Peace group (see above) held a meeting March 17 in a movie theater that was attended by a crowd that the group estimated at 1,000. The meeting was significant if only because it was the first time such a meeting was allowed since the movement launched its petition in November 1996 calling for broad-based political dialogue. Local independent papers, as well as some foreign press, covered the event, which was supported by many intellectuals and public personalities, but television did not report it, according to Salima Ghezali, one of the signatories of the Call for Peace and the editor of La Nation weekly.95

Opposition parties reserved their strongest objections for the high media profile of the RND candidates who are also sitting cabinet ministers, and the extensive television coverage they received in the two months preceding the official campaign. The RCD Secretary General Said Saadi, who ran against President Zéroual in the presidential elections, was quoted by El-Watan on May 5 saying the government's exploitation of Algerian Television (ENTV) was "truly a scandal." Ben Younis Ammara, public relations director of the RCD, told us on April 10, "All the political parties have indirectly begun their campaign, but the problem is the government's relationship with the RND. It is the party of the system. It gets wide coverage in the media, on television, its founding members include television announcers and personalities, and there are a number of cabinet ministers who will also join."96

Algerian radio, generally free from government influence, has often featured independent political figures who do not normally get time on television. This exposure has increased in the weeks before the election campaign. FFS representatives were interviewed in four different programs on the Arabic and French-language radio stationsin which they talked about their party politics and the forthcoming elections, according to the FFS's Seddik Debaili.97 Other parties also got more radio time than usual. But some viewed that development warily. The RCD's Said Saadi noted, "The radio is always monopolized (by the government) except when it's time for elections. This also happened before the presidential elections, when we witnessed lively media coverage but after the elections, everything went back to the same old pattern and we're afraid this will happen again."98


Human Rights Watch/Middle East

Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and among the signatories of the Helsinki accords. It is supported by contributions from private individuals and foundations worldwide. It accepts no government funds, directly or indirectly. The staff includes Kenneth Roth, executive director; Michele Alexander, development director; Cynthia Brown, program director; Barbara Guglielmo, finance and administration director; Robert Kimzey, publications director; Jeri Laber, special advisor; Lotte Leicht, Brussels office director; Susan Osnos, communications director; Jemera Rone, counsel; Wilder Tayler, general counsel; and Joanna Weschler, United Nations representative. Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of the board and Adrian W. DeWind is vice chair. Its Middle East division was established in 1989 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in the Middle East and North Africa. Eric Goldstein is the acting executive director; Joe Stork is the advocacy director; Virginia N. Sherry is associate director; Clarissa Bencomo, Elahé Sharifpour-Hicks, and Nejla Sammakia are research associates; Gamal Abouali is the Orville Schell fellow; Shira Robinson and Awali Samara are associates. Gary Sick is the chair of the advisory committee and Lisa Anderson and Bruce Rabb are vice chairs.

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67 In a typical declaration, Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf stated in March, "Terrorism has failed at every level. It has not caused the collapse of the institutions and has not prevented normal life at the political, economic, social and cultural level from continuing. Democracy is being consolidated, and pluralism is taking root. Terrorism has been unable to mobilize the people and is now wreaking vengeance upon them with contemptible killings which are proof of its failure. The elimination of terrorism is simply a question of time." Le Soir (Brussels), March 13, 1997, as reported in FBIS, Near East and South Asia, March 13, 1997. 68 Article 19 and Committee to Protect Journalists, "Press Freedom Groups Condemn Algeria's Silencing of the Independent Press," May 21, 1997. 69 Reporters sans frontières (Reporters without Borders), "Algérie: La guerre civile à huis clos," March 1997. 70 Legislative Decree 92-03 Relative to the Fight against Subversion and Terrorism. 71 Reporters sans frontières, "Algérie: La guerre civile à huis clos." 72 Associated Press, January 26, 1997. 73 Human Rights Watch interview, Algiers, April 9, 1997. 74 Human Rights Watch interview, Algiers, April 7, 1997. 75 Human Rights Watch interview, Algiers, April 9, 1997. 76 When under court supervision, the court may restrict a person's civil liberties such as foreign travel. Under court supervision, El-Watan editor Omar Belhouchet was almost prevented from participating in a ceremony honoring slain journalists in Washington in May 1996. After international protests, his passport was returned and he was able to travel. 77 Reporters sans frontières, "Algérie: La guerre civile à huis clos." 78 Human Rights Watch interview, Algiers, April 2, 1997. 79 Human Rights Watch interview, Algiers, April 9, 1997. 80 Human Rights Watch interview, Algiers, April 11, 1997. 81 Reporters sans frontières, "Algérie: la guerre civile à huis clos," p. 22. 82 Amnesty International Urgent Action, UA 118/97 "Disappearance/Fear of torture," (AI Index: MDE 28/06/97), April 28, 1997. 83 Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996, A Worldwide Survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists. (New York: Committee to Protect Journalists, 1997). 84 A statement issued by the two papers at the time protested the move on grounds that a sixty-day grace period was generally granted. 85 AFP, Algiers, April 19, 1997. 86 Human Rights Watch interview, Algiers, March 31. 1997. 87 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, May 15, 1997. 88 Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook 1996 (Central Intelligence Agency, 1996). (URL: 89 A. Balil, "Misère médiatique," El-Watan, May 11, 1997. 90 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, May 16, 1997. 91 Algiers ENTV, May 21, 1997, as reported by FBIS, Near East and South Asia, May 21, 1997. 92 ENTV program on elections, March 31, 1997, as registered by Human Rights Watch. 93 ENTV 17:00 news, April 10, 1997, as registered by Human Rights Watch. 94 Human Rights Watch interview, Algiers, April 9, 1997. 95 Human Rights Watch interview, Algiers, April 8, 1997. 96 Human Rights Watch interview, Algiers, April 10, 1997. 97 Human Rights Watch interview, Algiers, April 9, 1997. 98 Human Rights Watch interview, Algiers, April 10, 1997.