From exposing corruption among the ruling elite to denouncing odd practices in Algerian society, the satirical TV show ”Eldjazairia Weekend” has as many supporters as it does opponents.
Up until a few weeks ago, in its signature irreverent and snarky style, the show aired every Friday evening on El Djazaïria, a private television channel in Algeria. On April 24, the Eldjazairia Weekend team were forced to bid farewell to their TV audience. They were in tears.
While it appears that their network was behind the show's closing, according to Reporters Without Borders the satirical show was canceled due to political pressure from above. Their source is Abdou Semmar, editor-in-chief of the citizen media site Algerie-Focus and co-host of Eldjazairia Weekend.
Semmar, who is also a Global Voices contributor, co-hosts the show with journalists Karim Kardache, Mustapha Kessaci and actor Merouane Boudiab. Semmar has vowed that an online version of the program will soon be launched to counter this act of censorship.
Besides Algerie-Focus, Semmar is a member of Envoyés Spéciaux Algériens. If you are familiar with these outlets, you can probably guess the tone of Eldjazairia Weekend.
Why ‘Eldjazairia Weekend’ was stopped
It seems things came to a head on April 17 when Abdou Semmar questioned the wealth and Parisian apartments of several Algerian ministers and Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal's daughter. His information was based on the book “Paris-Alger, une histoire passionnelle” (Paris-Algiers, a passionate history), by a French journalist who claims that Sellal's daughter paid for her flat in Paris with money from dubious origins.The government's reaction was immediate and included a phone call from the prime minister, according to Algerie Focus.
The video below shared by Algerian netizens on YouTube is entitled “This is why ‘Eldjazairia Weekend’ was stopped.” It shows the segment of the show that is suspected to have caused the ire of authorities and cancellation of the program.
The next one shows the last minute of the last episode of the program where we can see Abdou crying along with the rest of his colleagues.
The rest of the video shows details of the administrative proceedings, including warnings by the audiovisual regulation authority and direct interventions by the Telecommunication Ministry with requests for the channel to change the form and content of the show and to fire Abdou.
The channel and journalists yielded to their demands. However, authorities subsequently refused to acknowledge their role in the cancellation of the show and insisted that the decision was purely internal. In fact, the decision was officially announced by the channel itself on its Facebook page. In a public statement, El Djazairia TV stated that the show stopped temporarily and will resume after Ramadan in a new format and that they only received oral warnings, not unlike any other television channels in the country.
Call to protest
That decision stirred indignation among the Algerian public and journalists, who expressed their support to the team of ‘Eldjazairia weekend’. International organisations such as Reporters without Borders also denounced the cancellation of the broadcast and called for the immediate reinstatement of the show. A protest was scheduled to take place on May 1. However, most private Algerian TV channels did not respond to the call for protest with only El Watan speaking up in support of Abdou and his colleagues. Only one parliamentarian Habib Zeggat dared to challenge the authorities and express his sorrow over the state of freedom of expression in Algeria, specifically focusing on the ‘Eldjazairia weekend’ case in his speech.
Incidents like this are not new in Algeria. Abdou has covered many stories where bloggers were imprisoned for merely criticizing the regime or calling for a democratic election.
After the protest, Abdou spoke to many media outlets, mainly French ones, to expose the truth behind the decision to cancel the show. Abdou regretted the lack of solidarity among Algerian media but lauded international media for their full support.