Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion
Medium: Print Journalism
Artist: Staff of "La Nation"
Confronting Bodies: Procurer de la Republique (Attorney General)
Dates of Action: August, 1992
Description of Artwork: "Founded in April 1992, "La Nation" has met censorship head on. The official reason for its suspension in August (1992), given by the Procurer de la Republique (Attorney General), was that it had "threatened the higher national interest" by publishing "unfounded information concerning the allegedly imminent trial of a leading smuggler in Southern Algeria."
The Incident: On the morning after the assassination of Mohammed Boudiaf (High Committee of State Chair),"La Nation's" front-page headline read: 'Une suele piste: la mafia politico-financiere' (One single trail: the politico-financial mafia'). The headline was quoted in international press coverage of Algeria, and on a local level triggered the re-entry of the catch-phrase 'mafia' into the shorthand of political discussion. Some of "La Nation's" staff made preparations to resume publication following the lifting of the ban. But on 19 October (1992), Algier's leading dailies carried a statement by five of "La Nation's" senior editorial staff, including the former editor Ammar Belhimer, to the effect that they were not prepared to work for "La Nation" even if it was to overcome funding problems and reappear in the streets. Their statement condemned 'direct censorship in the form of a lengthy suspension at a crucial stage in the promotion and launching of the newspaper and indirect (through depriving it of all advertising, which is under monopoly control). The editorial was not aligned with any one political current, it said, but had 'the common desire to reestablish peace and harmony... and the will for co-existence among Algerians.' The statement claimed, as evidence of impartiality, that 'our newspaper was soon tagged as aligned with all three fronts the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front), the FFS (Socialist Forces Front) and the FLN (National Liberation Front).' On the government's campaign against 'terrorism,' the statement claimed that 'those in favour of dialogue and reconciliation are insidiously transformed into accomplices of the terrorists.' As a vicious circle of violence overtakes the country, it said, 'the only line that is tolerated editorially and in news coverage is unconditional support for government action.
Results of Incident: ""La Nation" was in the process of challenging the legality of the Attorney General's charge in the courts,(with two other papers which had been suspended) when the ban was lifted on 8 October."
Source: Eileen Byrne, Index on Censorship, "Dialogue Suspended", 2/ 1993, Pgs. 21-23