Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Although Algeria's private press is among the most vibrant in the region, press freedom here suffered alarming setbacks in 2003. As pre-election tension rose, the government imposed new constraints on freedom of expression and began a campaign of intimidation, legal harassment, and financial pressure on the independent media. The State of Emergency Law (in effect since 1992) and the restrictive 2001 penal code amendments undermine constitutional provisions for freedom of speech and give the government authority to impose harsh fines and jail sentences for cases in which journalists "defame, insult or injure" government officials or institutions. In August 2003, six independent newspapers were suspended (Le Matin, Le Soir d'Algerie, Liberte, L'Expression, El Khabar, and Er-rai), and their journalists, editors, and publishers arrested on charges of defamation. However, by the end of the year all had been released from jail without charge. Notably, for the first time in years, the independent press reported on formerly taboo topics such as government wiretaps, corruption, and human rights violations in Kabylie. However, coverage of these and other controversial issues--Islam, the courts, and the military--is still minimal due to journalists' limited access to information and broad-scale self-censorship. Foreign media were prohibited from covering the release from jail of two key leaders of the banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). Furthermore, the state continued to exert control over independent media content through its distribution of advertising on political grounds and its virtual monopoly of the nation's printing presses. Although a 1998 amendment to the information code provides for private broadcast ownership, the Algerian government maintains total control over national television and radio. Coverage remains biased in favor of government policies, but foreign programming is easily accessible through widely available satellite dishes and antennas. Since 2001, no censorship of the Internet has been reported. However, only a small percentage of Algerians use the Internet, and only the government can grant licenses to Internet service providers.