Media regulator suspends two media outlets for “undermining Algeria”

The Haute Autorité de la Presse et l’Audiovisuel (HAPA) has suspended for 60 days each two news websites over their critical publications.

On March 9, 2024, the HAPA, the Mauritanian media regulator, suspended two local news websites, Anbaa info and Taqadoum, for 60 days for “undermining Algeria”. In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the regulator accuses the two outlets of publishing “false information” about the neighboring country.

Anbaa info was suspended following the publication of several articles considered by the authorities as intentionally insulting, openly prejudicing and inflammatory towards the Algerian government.

According to Le Jeune Indépendant, an Algerian news website, the suspension came after a couple of articles. The first relates to the accidental death of two members of the Mauritanian Presidential Guard during a recent visit by the Head of State to Algeria. In another article, Anbaa Info alleged that Algeria was preparing for war against Morocco.

According to the same source, the site has already received dozens of queries and summonses in the past for numerous alleged slip-ups.

As for Taqadoum, it was suspended after it alleged on March 8, 2024 that “the Mauritanian president is complaining about the numerous telephone calls from Tebboune [president of Algeria].”

The HAPA stated that “the aforementioned articles contained blatant breaches of professional standards, fake news, misleading information for readers, intentional abuse as well as open prejudice and incitement”.

While the media organisations concerned may have erred in the publications cited by the HAPA, we believe a 60-day suspension is an extreme punishment. The Mauritanian authorities have the opportunity to issue rejoinders to the publications and to clarify any misinformation that they contain, which the media organsations would have been obliged to publish. The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) believes that it is the way to go if press freedom is to be upheld and other interests protected. The MFWA reiterates the crucial importance of press freedom in any democratic society. Diversity of opinion and media transparency are vital elements of public debate and democratic governance. Any attempt to restrict this freedom compromises the fundamental principles of democracy and undermines the vitality of civil society.

We therefore call for a lifting of the suspension in favour of dialogue to find an amicable settlement. It is crucial that the Mauritanian authorities guarantee a free and open media environment, where the media can exercise their profession without fear of reprisals or censorship. At the same time, we reiterate the need for the media to demonstrate the highest standards of professionalism in their work.

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