In Algeria, a new decree threatens the freedom of the online media

A decree posted online Tuesday stipulates that online information activity must be carried out by a person of Algerian nationality and subjects electronic media to numerous authorizations and verifications.

In particular, they must provide a great deal of information concerning their hosting and financing and are obliged to keep an archive of all their content for at least six months. Sites publishing in a foreign language – in French for example – must obtain the agreement of the authority responsible for the electronic press.

Site hosting must now be “exclusively domiciled” in Algeria with a “.dz” domain name. The vast majority of sites are currently hosted abroad, mainly for technical and bureaucratic reasons. Electronic media have twelve months to comply with these provisions.

These new rules are supposed to “facilitate the organization of the profession” by drawing up “a cartography of the media” and participate in the fight against hate speech and disinformation, according to Minister of Communication and former journalist, Ammar Belhimer. But they are decried by online media professionals, who denounce an extreme media lockdown and a very restrictive authorization regime.

The Internet is under increasing control in Algeria, affecting both the publications of websites and Internet users critical of power. At least ten news sites were censored by the authorities during the year 2020, like Radio M, Maghreb Emergent, Interlignes, Casbah Tribune … Among them, some have been accused of touching foreign funding.

The entry into force of this decree comes in the wake of other legislative amendments, such as the reform of the penal code adopted in April. Aiming to criminalize the dissemination of false news, it is perceived by human rights organizations as a serious threat to freedom of expression and of the press.

Algeria is in 146th place (out of 180) in the 2020 world press freedom ranking established by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a drop of nearly 30 places compared to 2015.

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