Algerian journalist claims he was expelled from country without explanation

April 17, 2024 by No Comments

An Algerian journalist was expelled from the country after flying in and not being allowed to leave the airport as journalists continue to face challenges reporting in Algeria. Farid Alilat, a writer for the French-language magazine Jeune Afrique, wrote on Facebook that he spent 11 hours in police custody on Saturday at the airport before being boarded onto a plane and sent to France, where he has a residency permit. Alilat said he regularly takes flights from Paris to Algiers to report, where he has for years been a well-known journalist due to his work for French-language daily newspapers including Liberté, which was shuttered in 2022 amid financial problems and scuffles with the government and Algeria’s state-owned oil company, both of which are major advertisers for the country’s newspapers. In a lengthy post in which he wrote of his deportation as if he were reporting on it, Alilat alleged that police officers on the tarmac in Algiers told him that they were acting on orders “from above.” He said he was interrogated about his travels, who he has met with and about Jeune Afrique, which Algerian authorities believe favors their neighbor and regional rival, Morocco. “I completely understand that my articles are a source of irritation. I am a free journalist. I cover the news of my country as a free and independent journalist,” Alilat wrote, noting that he was not given any verbal or written explanation for his expulsion. He wrote that he had never previously heard of any issues from law enforcement or the courts in Algeria regarding his articles, including during a reporting trip in December 2023. In a statement posted, Reporters Without Borders called Alilat’s expulsion “an unacceptable obstacle to press freedom.” Few Algerian media outlets reported on Alilat’s expulsion and few politicians commented on it. Former Communications Minister Abdelaziz Rahabi called it “a measure from another era that serves neither the people nor the government.” “No one can be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter their own country,” he wrote on Facebook. The episode is the latest instance of Algeria’s government restricting journalists from reporting in Algeria and comes while high-profile journalists, including editors Ihsane El Kadi and Mustapha Benjama remain in prison on charges related to using foreign funds to finance journalism and disrupting public order. The government, however, has also resumed granting authorizations to journalists starting new media outlets or television shows and last year passed a law enshrining new protections for journalists.