Algerian newspapers suspended from publication

Six leading Algerian dailies were suspended from publication on Monday for not paying debts to state-run printing presses, the newspapers said. Their editors said a sudden call to pay the debts was part of a government move to stifle press freedom.

The newspapers were told on Thursday to pay a total of 3,5-billion dinars ($44-million) by Sunday or face a halt to publication.

Daily Liberte said it paid its debts in time, but was still halted.

The editors, in a statement on Saturday, accused the military-backed government of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of stifling a free press that has reported on alleged embezzlement by state officials.

The dailies—L’Expression, El Khabar, Le Matin, Le Soir d’Algerie, Liberte and Errai—are among the largest-circulation dailies.

Newspaper reports this summer have brought to light allegations of embezzlement that have implicated Bouteflika, his brothers, government ministers and other officials.

The editors alleged that officials were concerned that the allegations might endanger their political careers. Presidential elections are scheduled next year.

Ali Ouafek, an administrator at Liberte, said it decided to pay its debts not out of a lack of solidarity with the other dailies, but “to expose the Machiavellian plot of the government.” The Associated Press contacted the Algerian Communications Ministry but could not reach spokespeople there.

Algeria’s feisty newspapers are one of the few outlets for independent political expression permitted under the military regime that rules the North African nation under the guise of an elected president.—Sapa-AP

On the Net:

Liberte (in French): www.liberte-algerie.com

Le Soir d’Algerie (in French): www.lesoirdalgerie.com

Le Matin (in French): www.lematin-dz.net/accueil

El Khabar: www.elkhabar.com/html/pageAnglais.html

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