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Algeria cancels France 24’s operating licence

ALGIERS, Algeria: Algeria has cancelled the accreditation of France 24, the communications ministry said on Sunday, a day after parliamentary elections in the former French colony.

The move was due to the satellite news channel’s “clear and repeated hostility towards our country and its institutions”, the ministry and government spokesman Ammar Belhimer said in quotes carried by the state news agency APS.

Belhimer also accused France 24 of failing to respect journalistic rules and ethics, saying it “practises disinformation and manipulation in addition to confirmed hostility against Algeria”.

The outlet said authorities had given the channel a final warning on March 13 over its “coverage of Friday marches” of the long-running Hirak anti-government protest movement.

In a statement on Sunday, the public broadcast service said it was “surprised not to have received any explanation” for the move, stressing that “we cover Algerian news transparently, independently and honestly.”

The French government, which has tense ties with Algiers, did not immediately comment.

Both foreign and local journalists in Algeria often face bureaucratic and unclear procedures to obtain permission to work.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Algeria 146 out of 180 countries and territories in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, a 27-place drop from 2015.

The withdrawal of France 24’s accreditation came a day after the North African country held legislative elections, with almost 70% of voters abstaining according to official figures.

It also comes amid mounting official pressure against Hirak and a string of arrests of journalists and opposition figures.

Independent journalist Khaled Drareni and the director of a pro-reform radio station, Ihsane El-Kadi were among seven people arrested on Thursday.

Although former Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down in 2019 in the face of anti-regime protests, demonstrations have continued, demanding an overhaul of the ruling system in place since independence from France in 1962.

The authorities say the movement’s main demands have been met, and accuse the remaining protesters of working against Algeria’s interests.

The Hirak movement returned to the streets in February after an almost year-long break due to the coronavirus pandemic, having also survived a campaign of arrests, a presidential election and a constitutional referendum partly aimed at burying it.