News24

Algeria silences Al-Jazeera

2004-06-30 12:39

Algiers - The Algerian authorities have provisionally frozen the activities of Arabic-language television station Al-Jazeera in the north African country, the station's correspondent in the capital Algiers said on Wednesday.

"I was informed of the freeze, which is valid until further notice, of the station's activities, but was not given any explanation other than the fact that foreign correspondents' work is in the process of being reorganised and I could resume my activities afterwards," Mohamed Daho told AFP.

Newspapers had speculated on Tuesday that the station's Algerian branch would be temporarily closed down, saying that the authorities had "not appreciated" a debate aired on Al-Jazeera recently, questioning President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's national reconciliation programme.

Bouteflika unveiled a "civil reconciliation" plan shortly after first coming to power in 1999, under which several thousand Islamic extremists who had been fighting to oust the secular government since 1992 surrendered in exchange for partial amnesty.

Covered blast

The civil war that raged for the decade between 1992 and 2002, now sharply diminished, claimed at least 100 000 lives, according to official figures, and up to 150 000 by independent counts.

Hardline extremist fighters of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which has been linked to al-Qaeda, and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) have rejected Bouteflika's offer, but are thought to be weakening.

Bouteflika renewed his call for national reconciliation before this year's presidential election, which saw him overwhelmingly returned to office, largely because of his success in bringing Algeria's civil war under control.

Other newspapers speculated that the suspension of Al-Jazeera's activities was due to the coverage it gave to a blast at the Hamma power station in Algiers on June 21.

The authorities have said the blast was probably accidental but it was later claimed by the GSPC, the country's largest Islamic radical group.

Al-Jazeera broadcasts via satellite in Algeria, where the station has a large audience.