Freedom Forum: Algeria Denied Visas to Foreign Correspondents
Algeria and Zimbabwe have refused visas to foreign correspondents seeking to cover news there, according to a report by the Freedom Forum.
Algeria refused this week to issue visas to reporters from the Paris dailies Libération, Le Figaro and Le Monde, who had been assigned to cover the French minister of external commerce's visit to Algeria, says the report.
The Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières has protested the Algerian action, asking:
"Why grant visas to some journalists but not to others? Considering the serious events which are currently taking place in Algeria, foreign journalists should have the possibility to freely cover the news, irrespective of the media outlet for which they work."
The issuing of visas to foreign journalists officially falls under the authority of Algeria's Ministry of Communications' services. Asked why certain journalists had been denied visas for years, a ministry official told RSF a year ago that he did not know "at what level such decisions were made."
He added that the Algerian state reserved "the right to refuse visas to pseudo-journalists who campaign against Algeria's national dignity and do not respect ethics. Algeria is a sovereign country and can refuse to grant visas to anybody who lobbies against its national interests."
Algeria also is tightening controls on its own journalists, adds the report.
Recently passed defamation provisions in the penal code provide for prison sentences ranging from two months to one year with no possibility of parole plus heavy fines for insulting the president or a state body, according to the Algerian Center for the Promotion of Press Freedom in Algiers.
The parliamentary action was taken in spite of numerous appeals by media professionals in Algeria and international press-freedom organizations that had strongly urged that cases involving defamation should be settled in civil rather than criminal courts, the center noted.
Zimbabwe, which recently announced new visa rules, has rejected applications for two BBC crews and turned down a work permit extension for another British correspondent.
BBC journalists Simon Finch, John Sweeney and James Miller applied for Zimbabwean visas to cover this week's solar eclipse and were turned down, said the forum, citing a report by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in Windhoek.
In rejecting the visas, the Zimbabwean government cited the new accreditation regulations, which require journalists to give a month's notice in order to process their requests and to apply from outside Zimbabwe.
Established in 1991, the Freedom Forum is based in Arlington, Virginian as “a nonpartisan, international foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people,” according to its website – Albawaba.com
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