In Algeria, if the public media has always adopted censorship as a policy since independence, with the exception of the 1989-1992 parenthesis, some of the so-called private media have been manipulated by the regime to do the dirty work of propaganda and disinformation.
This policy of disinformation began at the time of the print media before gaining momentum with the advent of the so-called private television channels. Without exempting the French-speaking press from any reproach, the two media groups that have been used as the main instruments of this policy in Algeria are two Arabic-speaking channels, namely Ennahar and Echourouk.
According to Reporters without Borders, “The authorities [in Algeria] continue to throttle the media financially in order to restrict their activities. As a result of both economic and judicial forms of harassment, journalists and media outlets find it hard to operate freely.”
It is worth remembering that these so-called private channels are not independent in the slightest given the bureaucratic and highly selective process for obtaining approval. Indeed, most of these channels were approved at a time when freedom of expression was largely restricted by the Algerian authorities. It was impossible for discordant voices to obtain permission for the launch of a television channel and those that eventually could do so depended on the contribution of public money in terms of state advertising.
In return for obtaining large advertising contracts, the role of the two media groups mentioned above was fourfold: 1) spread propaganda in favour of the regime; 2) misinform the population; 3) launch diversion campaigns; 4) Islamize and Arabize the population.
Since their launch, these two groups have continued to praise the regime in place by focusing on the achievements of President Bouteflika and distilling without restraint the propaganda of the regime. Bouteflika is generally depicted as the savior of the Nation, the president who could bring back peace and social cohesion in the country. All issues of contention are carefully avoided or, at best, treated superficially.
Approximate information, spurious economical figures, subjects treated superficially, information that does not resist any analysis … such is the policy of these two groups whose information processing does not seem to reflect any attention to ethics. More often than not, novices are invited on their plateaus to be afforded the title of experts in various fields.
Diversion campaigns are regularly launched in order to divert national public opinion from the real problems, especially those related to corruption and bad governance. Everything is done to gear the public opinion towards subjects of society. Particularly worth remembering in this respect are those hateful campaigns against single women, female students or sub-Saharan migrants.
Islamisation and Arabisation
The focus is always on religion, religious morality and the Arabization of society. Forums are offered to preachers in hours of great audience and campaigns hostile to the other religions and linguistic components of the Algerian society are also often launched. It should be recalled that these two media groups were among the fiercest enemies of the former Minister of Education, Nouria Bengahbrit, because of her attempts to modernize the Algerian school and bring it out of the arabo-islamist orbit.
Today, many Algerians understand that such groups are part and parcel of the current system and that any democratic change must be accompanied by a review of the media environment in Algeria. Evidence is given to us by Echourouk’s current misinformation campaign in favor of the Chief of Staff of the army.