Algeria must sign and ratify the new African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption as soon as possible, and allow the media to operate freely
The Algerian government has been relentlessly harassing the main Algerian dailies in recent weeks, namely El Khabar, L'Expression, Liberté, Le Matin, Er Raï and Le Soir d'Algérie. Various newspapers have been momentarily suspended by the authorities while certain journalists have fallen victim to some rough questioning, undergone unacceptable police harassment and seen their civil rights violated. This assault on the press is not an isolated act; on 6 August 2003 the Algerian government adopted a decree, with the aim of controlling the import of books and reintroducing censorship.
Transparency International (TI), the leading global anti-corruption NGO, is gravely concerned by this violation of fundamental human and civic rights, coming as it does after the publication in these same newspapers of corruption scandals where senior regime officials were involved. The officials concerned have neither commented on nor denied the accusations. Clearly, newspaper editors and journalists are being impeded from doing their job of informing the public and monitoring state institutions. Against this backdrop it is impossible not to remember the case of the late El Watan journalist, Abdelhaï Beliardouh, who fell victim to pressures exerted on him by a mafia-style coalition, while he was investigating corruption. The intimidation, including kidnapping, culminated in his suicide. He was given posthumous recognition at the TI Integrity Awards 2003.
Djillali Hadjadj of the Algerian Association against Corruption (official partner of Transparency International in Algeria) stresses that: "The Algerian authorities are trying to get the Algerian press to toe the line at any cost, by the use and abuse of illegal practices and police measures, in contravention of international agreements to which Algeria has subscribed regarding human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Such methods belong to the era of dictatorships, an era which we thought was gone forever."
TI reiterates how vital freedom of information and freedom of the press are in the fight against corruption and the promotion of good governance. In the Global Corruption Report 2003, Peter Eigen, Chairman of Transparency International, affirms that "corruption will continue to thrive without the vigilance of the media and civil society, and the bravery of investigative journalists and whistleblowers in particular".
Transparency International joins together with the Algerian Association Against Corruption to express its concern and to ask the Algerian authorities to exercise their duty to be transparent and promote good governance in public affairs, particularly since Algeria is a leading country in the ambitious New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) initiative. TI invites the Algerian government to sign and ratify the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption as soon as possible and to allow the press to operate freely and without undue pressure from the authorities, in particular ahead of the crucial presidential elections of 2004.
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