Vivian Yee @The New York Times
The country has effectively closed down one of the last places in Algeria for freewheeling political debate, which carried on even as the military-backed regime that leads the country grew increasingly authoritarian.
CAIRO — The editor of one of Algeria’s last remaining independent media outlets was charged on Thursday with publishing articles that threaten national security and receiving suspicious funding from foreign sources, days after security officials shut down his internet radio station in an escalation of the North African country’s crackdown on dissent and free press.
The editor, Ihsane El-Kadi, is a prominent journalist who heads Radio M and its sister news site. He has been in detention since plainclothes security agents arrested him early on Saturday at his home east of Algiers, the capital, said his daughter, Tin Hinane El-Kadi. A court extended his detention on Thursday for another two weeks, until his next hearing.
On the day of his arrest, officials also raided Radio M’s offices, confiscating cameras, computers and other equipment before sealing its doors, his daughter said. Some of its more than 30 journalists have continued to publish stories online, mainly to rally support for their editor.
But the raid and arrest effectively closed down one of the last places in Algeria for freewheeling political debate — one that had hosted voices from the government as well as from the opposition. It had continued broadcasting even as the military-backed regime that leads the country grew increasingly authoritarian after being shaken by a 2019 anti-government protest movement.
“It has always been known for its independence,” said Khaled Drareni, the North African representative for Reporters Without Borders, which has called for Mr. El-Kadi’s release. “It has welcomed everyone from the regime and the opposition. With its closure, it’s indeed one of the last free media in Algeria that disappears.”
Three years ago, when the mass protests known as the Hirak movement forced Abdelaziz Bouteflika, then Algeria’s president, from power without bloodshed, activists hoped Algeria would transition toward democracy.
But its military still held fast to power behind the scenes, and the new president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was elected with military support in 2019, has pushed the country toward an even harsher authoritarianism despite initial moves to release political detainees and draft a new constitution.
Repression of Algerian journalists, rights activists and pro-democracy figures has grown steeply since then, while the millions who flocked to the streets during the Hirak movement melted away amid coronavirus-related lockdowns and the growing danger of opposing the government
Dozens of journalists have been imprisoned since 2019 as the government has sought to prevent mass protests from flaring again, Mr. Drareni said.
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