Algerian writer and current minister of communication, Hamid Grine, finally joined Twitter a few weeks ago. His first tweets announced the death of 86 yo Boualem Bessaih who had just been appointed personal representative of 79 yo Bouteflika. Bassaih was also a writer (I liked his “De l’émir Abdelkader à l’imam Chamyl” book) and a former minister of communication (1980 to 1984) hence Grine’s mention.
And exactly like most, not to say all, Algerian politicians (the few who use Twitter), Grine’s twitter account is not very active with so far only 23 tweets and following 21 twitter accounts. These accounts show that his world is restricted to Algeria (not all of it) and France.
But this low activity makes it easy to go through his tweets and this is how I found the one where he stated that only 21 Algerian daily newspapers had circulations of more than 10,000 copies per day.
The Algerian regime likes to boast that democracy, pluralism, freedom of expression are a reality in the country. The elections masquerades, the dozens of political parties and the equally huge number of existing newspapers are used to prove it. Even people not connected to the regime, such as foreign observers and journalists, mention the harsh tone against the government one can find in these newspapers and their cartoons.
But this is all fake. There are apparently 150 daily newspapers in Algeria and most of them are probably unknown to the public and are not even seen on newsagent stands. And despite their prices increase from 10 DZD to 15DZD and then 20DZD for some of them, all of these dailies struggle to make ends meet and most of them rely almost exclusively on the state’s subsidies which are given through state-controlled advertising (ANEP agency). This is of course the way the government controls these newspapers and makes sure they do not cross the red lines, when it doesn’t make them write specific content that is.
The state’s control over “public” newspapers is no secret but the above applies to the privately held ones. Add that many among the private owners were/are within the regime or are connected to them. And when the carrot doesn’t work then the stick is there to make sure the message is understood: public advertising is reduced, delayed or sometimes simply suppressed or/and state-owned printing offices (which are used by most newspapers) request the rebellious daily to pay its debts which obviously would lead to its death. Other “violent” methods had been used in the past with the newspapers and more recently with some private TV channels (examples here, here and here).
This round-up is certainly no news to readers who are familiar with Algerian politics. The others may have learned something. Let’s move now to what triggered this post, and it’s a lighter material 🙂
When the first private newspapers were founded in the early 90s, many wanted to stress that they were independent and this press is now referred to as the Independent press when it only means privately owned press. Some of these newspapers were owned by their founding journalists and others by private interests. The points I mentioned above as well as the constraints the private owners put on their journalists/employees obviously put this “independence” under a different perspective. Not all newspapers and not all journalists are independent all the time. This is the case everywhere in the world (with the exception perhaps of some pure player models which are financed only on their readers, and if this approach shows some limits) but there is a nuance in the case of countries like Algeria is worse because of the nature of its regime.
Anyway, I said this part is supposed to be light. So these newspapers used mottos to hint at their independence and display their ideals of professionalism, dedication, etc. So I thought I’d go through some of them (and translate them for my dear English readers) and suggest new mottos based on Westeros Houses’ words. My suggestions will be limited to the few dailies I read.
- Most of Arabic language newspapers simply use “يومية إخبارية وطنية” which means “national daily newspaper“.
- Elkhabar uses “الصّدق والمصداقيّة” meaning “Honesty and credibility“.
- Echourouk uses “رأينا صواب يحتمل الخطأ ورأيكم خطأ يحتمل الصواب” which is derived from a saying attributed to Imam Shafi’i meaning “Our opinion is right with the possibility of being wrong and yours is wrong with the possibility of it being right“.
- And strangely enough, Elfadjr and Elhiwar are the only ones I found to use the word independent in their “يومية جزائرية مستقلة” meaning “Independent Algerian daily“
There is a bigger variety within French language newspapers.
- Liberte’s motto is “Le droit de savoir, le devoir d’informer” meaning ” The right to know, the duty to inform“.
- La Depeche de Kabylie uses “Le journal des hommes libres” meaning “The newspaper of the free men (folk? lol)”.
- Reflexion uses “Si vous aimez la liberte, payez-en le prix” meaning ” If you like freedom, pay its price“.
- Le Jeune Independant (Ha!) uses “De l’info sans defaut” meaning “Info(rmation) or news without fault“.
- Le Midi Libre uses “L’info, rien que l’info” meaning “News, only news“.
- Our dear Elmoudjahid’s motto is of course “La revolution par le peuple et pour le peuple” meaning “The revolution by the people and for the people“.
- Then you have many newspapers which use “Quotidien national d’information” meaning “National news daily”.
- And here too, only La Nouvelle Republique and Le Soir d’Algerie use “independent” in “Quotidien d’information independant” meaning “Independent news daily” for the former and “Quotidien Independant” meaning “Independent daily” for the latter.
I also add newspapers which no longer have a paper format and can only be read online:
- Le Matin uses “Le journal des debats et des idees” meaning “The newspaper of debates and ideas”.
- Libre Algerie uses “Forum du libre debat” meaning “Free debate forum”.
I tried to find new mottos of my own but ended up with “Tiri bark” for most if not all newspapers (you’ll have to wait until the Urban Dictionary comes up with a translation for it as it did for hallab). And this is why I am going with G. R. R. Martin’s imagination.
- Elkhabar: House Mormont’s “Here we stand” because I like this house and Elkhabar is my preferred Algerian newspaper and no, I am not saying it is perfect. House Redfort’s “As strong as stone” could be used too because it’s still present despite all the crises it went through, the latest being the cancellation of its acquisition by Rebrab.
- Echourouk: House Flint’s “Ever Vigilant” because they want us to believe that they are here to detect and counter all the attacks against Algeria’s values.
- Ennahar: House Codd’s “Though All Men Do Despise Us” sounds good even though it could be applied to many other newspapers.
- Elfadjr: House Wendwater’s “For All Seasons” because it’s an arabophone newspaper with a secular “eradicatrice” chief editor.
- Elwatan: House Wode’s “Touch Me Not“, House Mallister’s “Above the Rest” or House Serrett’s “I Have No Rival” because they think they are the élite.
- Liberte: House Caron’s “No Song So Sweet” as a reference to its owner, the sugar baron as Forbes called him once.
- Elmoudjahid: House Hastwyck’s “None So Dutiful” because I dare think that they feel no enthusiasm or pleasure in doing their job. House Oakheart’s “Our Roots Go Deep” because it’s the very first post-1965 newspaper.
- Le Quotidien d’Oran: House Plumm’s “Come Try Me” because their website’s design does say exactly the opposite. House Tollett’s “When All is Darkest” may fit as well for the same reason (their website).
- L’expression: House Royce’s “We Remember” because they remember their suspension in 2003 and this may explain why they are so pro-government, in my opinion of course.
- La Depeche de Kabylie: Following the Kabyle saying “Rather break than bend“, there are many possible words: House Bulwer’s “Death Before Disgrace“, or House Martell’s “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken“, or House Westford’s “Death Over Dishonor“
- Le Matin: House Targaryen’s “Fire and Blood” because Mohamed Benchikou makes me think of the Mad King, their “Eradicateur” past (?) during which they allied with the regime and how they’ve been overthrown (the neswpaper has been banned).
- Libre Algerie: House Stokeworth’s “Proud to Be Faithful” for they are faithful to late Hocine Ait-Ahmed.
I am sorry if you are not familiar with these newspapers or with Game of Thrones or, worse, with either, but this post is already too long to write short descriptions for each.