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Algeria / Amazigh newspaper censored by the state

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Tiɣremt, the first entirely Amazigh-language newspaper in Algeria, has just recorded its second day of a printing ban after having published 4 issues – issues 5 and 6 having been banned.

Contacted by the Algiers Herald, Yacine Zidane, the editor of the newspaper, explained that Tiɣremt is a privately-owned independent newspaper which is, in a way, the descendant of the French-language newspaper ‘La Cité’.

According to him, this newspaper was born in 2014 and began to integrate 4 sheets in Tamazight on Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. From 2016, a monthly supplement in Tamazight was launched that the supporters of the newspaper distributed free of charge since the managers of the printing plant informed them of the impossibility of selling it as such under the name of the newspaper ‘La cité’.

According to Yacine Zidane, “since 2016, the newspaper’s officials have repeatedly tried to regularize their situation with the Ministry of Communication in order to obtain approval, but to no avail. It was only after the arrival of the government and Ammar Belhimer at the head of this Ministry, that approval could be obtained. “

Taking advantage of the availability of Amazigh-speaking journalists in its editorial staff, the idea of ​​launching a daily newspaper in this language quickly became unanimous and Tiɣremt was launched. However, “the officials of the Ministry of Communication tried to impose polygraphy on us, that is to say a few pages in Latin characters, some in Arabic characters and others in Tifina characters. Something we refused because our target audience is only familiar with Latin characters. Adds Yacine Zidane.

Consequently, the ban on printing was notified by phone to the editor of the newspaper by an adviser to the Ministry of Communication on March 3, 2020. “We were even told that we would have pages of state advertising and offices nationwide if we were to opt for Arabic characters.”, says Yacine Zidane.

The issues already published.

It should be noted that the editorial staff is composed of Yacine Zidane and Djamel Ikhloufi, two specialists in the Amazigh language who have already published several works in this language, as well as Mohand Ait Ighil who is a novelist and playwright. In addition, the editorial secretary, Ramdane Abdenbi, is a former editor in charge of the High Commission for Amazighness (HCA).

Thus, Tiɣremt wants to be a national newspaper which deals with both national and regional news through papers from Sétif, Oran, Annaba, Batna, Tamenrasset, Ghardaia, etc. and by opening its columns to contributors from different regions of Algeria, notably Aurès, who send their articles in Chaoui and in Latin script.

Furthermore, it should be noted that although Latin characters are largely dominant in the field of research around Tamazight in Algeria, a debate has been fueled in recent years, more particularly since its officialization, around the characters to be adopted for transcription.

Thus, most of the productions (novels, essays, etc.) and academic work that have been carried out for decades around Tamazight in Algeria, have been mainly conducted in Latin characters, therefore, common sense would dictate keeping Latin characters for its transcription.

However, the people who fuel this debate, for the most part outside the academic field, advance the advisability of adopting the Arabic characters or, to a lesser extent, the Amazigh characters (Tifinagh) for the transcription of this language.

This controversy, knowingly and sporadically fueled, will only exacerbate the already existing tensions around the linguistic conflict in Algeria, especially since the field of production in Tamazight continues to increase. In addition, this controversy will not fail to put back on the table the question of the officialization of Tamazight in Algeria because this kind of episodes only reinforces those, among the observers, who consider that it is only a form of ‘second-class’ officialization.