‘Algerie Debout’, a popular pro-democracy Facebook group had one of its admins arrested by the Algerian authorities. This follows an intensifying crackdown on voices that criticise the current army chief, Ahmed Gaid-Salah. The group’s founder, Sofiane Benyounes, came out to denounce the regime’s practices.
This isn’t the first time Sofiane Benyounes denounces the authorities’ practices, his group was shut down on multiple occasions and its members harassed in the past, however this is the first time a member of the admin team is arrested and interrogated.
In the past, Sofiane Benyounes also denounced the way Facebook handles pro-democracy, groups or pages, based in authoritarian countries. He had made the allegation that Facebook’s regional office in the United Arab Emirates was behind the complications the group was experiencing. He had also shared how Facebook would consistently demand the provision of official IDs from the group’s members, or have their accounts deleted. As discussed in a previous article, the Emirates have been denounced for their active role in Sudan and Algeria, specifically for working hand in hand with the countries’ military commands to counter the countries’ pro-democracy movements.
Below is Algerie Debout’s full statement on the arrest of its moderator.
Algerie Debout, targeted once again by the dictatorship.
Yesterday, one of the moderators of the group Algerie Debout was summoned and interrogated for several hours at Bab Ezzouar’s cybercrime unit, the interrogation focused mostly on me personally, my publications on the army’s chief and the activities of the the group ‘Algerie Debout’.
Being abroad for personal reasons, the Police has therefore turned to one of our female moderators to gather information about me and the group.
The moderator was forced to open her facebook account on a computer, after which they proceeded to take the informations they were looking for.
I consider this as a serious infringement on the freedom to think and express oneself on a social network in general and a Facebook group in particular that respects ethics, rejects defamation, defends patriotic values and fights for democratic freedoms of opinion and conscience.
I consider that as the group’s primary admin, if there is to be an investigation about me, it should only affect me and no one else.
At a time when the leaders of the moment are discussing freedom of opinion and calling for a presidential election supposed to be free and transparent, we use intimidations, we muzzle voices, we attack activists, the plural thought, free expression and the exercise of fundamental rights.
I call on the solidarity of all patriots and democrats so that we remain mobilized on the issues of freedom and rights, at a time when many of our fellow citizens are kept in custody for their opinions, our opinion and our dignity.
We are standing up and not standing at attention!
Sofiane Benyounes, founder and admin of the Algerie Debout group