Thousands protested in Algiers Friday to demand press freedom and judicial independence, as the Hirak pro-democracy movement keeps up its weekly demonstrations, despite a ban on gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Hirak protest movement was sparked in February 2019 over then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office.
The ailing strongman was forced to step down weeks later, but the Hirak continued with demonstrations, demanding a sweeping overhaul of a ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.
“Freedom means expressing myself how I want and not how you want,” one placard on Friday read.
Press freedom watchdog 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.
Several journalists were assaulted at the demonstration a week earlier, and Algerian authorities have threatened to permanently withdraw international broadcaster France 24’s media accreditation.
“Nothing justifies attacking a journalist or any other person,” said Ali, a retired teacher in his sixties who declined to provide his surname.
He told AFP he hoped for “free, professional and above all objective and impartial press”.
Protesters also called for an “independent judiciary”.
Since the movement’s second anniversary on February 22, thousands have taken to the streets for weekly protests, which had been suspended for almost a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Friday’s demonstration came as Algeria marked the anniversary of the March 19, 1962, ceasefire that ended its war of independence from France.
“19 March 1962: ceasefire, 19 March 2021: cease repression,” one protest sign read.
“Return the power to the people,” protesters demanded, addressing the ruling class.
Demonstrators also criticised President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s decision to call early elections on June 12 in an attempt to assuage the country’s political and economic crisis.
Tebboune has reached out to the protest movement while also seeking to neutralise it.
“No elections with the mafia gang (in power),” protesters chanted.
Local media reported demonstrations in several other cities, despite poor weather.
‘Israel has the right to self-defense’ — Psaki
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has stated that “Israel has the right to self-defense” against Gaza-based Islamist terrorists who have rained down over 2,000 rockets on southern and central Israel since Monday.
She noted that Hamas is a terrorist group, but stressed that the US is focused on de-escalation.
“It’s important to remember that Hamas is a terrorist group. They don’t represent the views, the families and the Palestinian people who are suffering. There’s no excuse for the rockets,” Psaki told journalists.
Meanwhile, US Secretary for Israeli-Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr landed in Israel on Friday, as part of Washington’s efforts to defuse the most intense fight between Gaza-based Islamist terrorists and the Jewish state since 2014.
Barka da Sallah to Muslim faithfuls who don’t behave like terrorists — Kanu
Rights activist, Nnamdi Kanu, has congratulated Muslims as they celebrate Eid al-Fitr – one of the holiest occasions on the Islamic calendar.
Kanu, in a message Thursday, noted that his message and best wishes are directed to “Muslim faithfuls who don’t think and behave like the terrorists” who he said are presiding over the government in Nigeria.
“May the peace & blessings of your God Allah be and abide with you always,” said the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
— Mazi Nnamdi Kanu (@MaziNnamdiKanu) May 13, 2021
Rocket attacks: Nigerian govt frowns, send message to Israel
Nigeria’s federal government has expressed its displeasure with the rocket attacks between Israel and the Palestinian militant group in Gaza, Hamas.
In a statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ferdinand Nwonye, Nigeria’s federal government called on both sides to defuse hostilities.
“The Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to state that the Federal Government of Nigeria is watching with great concern the unfolding developments with Israel and the State of Palestine and urges both parties to see reason and de-escalate the hostilities,” said Nwonye.
“The Federal Government further urges the two parties to remain committed to the two-state solution and, in the meantime, guarantee the rights of all citizens to live in peace and dignity.”
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