The student march scheduled for Tuesday, May 11 in Algiers was banned for the third week in a row by the authorities, who made numerous arrests, including several journalists briefly detained.
“Today, the drift continues, the interior ministry decides to carry out its authoritarian decision, it bans the marches and makes several arrests in Algiers, Tizi Ouzou and Béjaïa”, said Saïd Salhi, vice-president of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), stressing that the students’ march had been “Prohibited and repressed”. He also lamented “Arrests of students, activists, journalists and photographers”.
For the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) branch in North Africa, “The repression is intensifying”. She claims five journalists were arrested on Tuesday and “Taken to the Algiers police station” : Sami Kharoum, from the French-speaking daily El Watan ; Khaled Drareni, founder of the site Casbah Tribune and correspondent for TV5 Monde and RSF; Feriel Bouaziz, from the information site Line spacing ; Hakim Hammiche, photographer of Tariq News ; and Mustapha Bastami, from the Arabic-language newspaper El Khabar. Another journalist from Tariq News, Abdessamad Titraoui, was also arrested, according to the director of this site.
All were released at the end of the afternoon, “But without receiving an explanation as to what led them to spend five hours at the police station, without being questioned, and to see their identity card and their phone confiscated”Souhaieb Khayati, director of RSF’s North Africa office, told AFP. ” Goal ? Prevent and dissuade journalists from covering the Hirak protests, which, with all due respect to the authorities, are a reality ”, he noted. RSF called “The Algerian authorities to stop the harassment of journalists”.
The UN more and more “concerned”
With the approach of the early legislative elections of June 12, rejected by the Hirak, repression continues to increase in Algeria, believe human rights organizations. The UN is “More and more concerned” by the situation in Algeria, where fundamental rights, such as the rights to freedom of opinion and peaceful assembly, “Continue to be attacked”, said Tuesday the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.
“We urge the Algerian authorities to stop using violence to disperse peaceful demonstrations and to put an end to the arbitrary arrests and detentions of people who have exercised their rights to freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly”, said Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the High Commission.
Some demonstrators arrested in previous weeks had been released after being forced to sign a document at the police station, in which they pledged not to participate in the weekly marches on pain of being imprisoned for recidivism, according to Mr. Salhi. The Interior Ministry recalled Sunday that the weekly Hirak marches were to be the subject of a “Declaration” prior. Failure to follow this procedure “Strikes the march of any legal character” and “Implies treatment accordingly”, he warned.
The demonstrators had changed their route on Friday to avoid the many security lines and police vehicles blocking access to the usual meeting places. According to the National Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners (CNLD), more than 70 people are currently imprisoned for acts related to Hirak and / or individual freedoms. Born in February 2019 from the massive rejection of a fifth term of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the Hirak calls for a radical change of “System” policy in place since independence in 1962.