Algerian National Media: Freedom at a Cost

The Algerian media landscape, while exhibiting some of the structural features of the industry in neighbouring North African countries, is unique in tending to employ a bolder tone and showing comparatively greater resistance to pressure. It is empowered by a long history of braving taboos, including enduring retaliations by extremist Islamist groups during the dark decade of the Civil War.

However, Algerian national media has missed an opportunity for development. During the Civil War, it was reduced to a ‘patriotic’ platform for the regime’s messages and consistent attacks by rebels. Today, independent reporting is curtailed by a combination of formal and informal pressures. Media content is restricted by vague legal stipulations, including normative obligations to play a ‘national role’ in support of the state. The precarious situation of the private broadcast sector, which is tolerated without being licensed, increases its instrumentalisation, and it now heavily invests in sensational reporting, operating at the margins of international standards.

The Algerian media landscape represents multi-layered struggles and divides: linguistic, cultural, generational and ideological. It is a case study of excessive state intervention in the shaping of media content, operations and economic viability, especially by use of commercial pressure.2 The recent move towards the institutionalisation of media rights and freedoms is largely state-controlled and is seen as suspicious by a large part of the media community. Algeria’s new media law falls short of meeting international standards for freedom of expression.