Cartoonists discuss freedom of expression in Algeria

Caricatures draw attention to press freedom issues in Algeria.

Caricature exhibit "Freedom of Expression in Broad Strokes".

One of the caricatures featured, by Run Tang Li.

In Algeria, editorial cartoons are among the first content people look at when they read the daily paper - readers are interested to see cartoonists draw attention to sensitive subjects and provide commentary on current events or personalities.

At a time when constitutional reform was all over the news in Algeria, the Embassy of Canada and the Algerian Ministry of Communication presented the cartoon exhibit “Freedom of Expression in Broad Strokes” at the prestigious Palais de la Culture Moufdi Zakaria.

The exhibit encouraged citizens to reflect on the complexity of freedom of expression and what it means to them. Government officials attended the exhibit and reiterated the importance of press freedom in a modern democracy.

The Embassy of Canada and Algeria’s Ministry of Communication complemented the exhibit with the work of five well-known Algerian cartoonists: Slim, Haroun, Aider, le Hic, and Maz, representing different generations, hence different periods of Algeria’s history.

These five Algerian cartoonists attended the inauguration, and two of them along with the Embassy’s political counsellor participated in an hour-long radio show to discuss the role that cartoonists play in a free press, and the changing situation in Algeria over the decades.

Journalists rejoice over zero censorship

In the 1990s when Algeria was going through a civil war, an estimated 100 journalists were killed for exercising their profession. While in recent years journalists no longer need to fear for their lives, a number of challenges remain, such as the harassment and the denial of visas to foreign journalists.

In the week following the exhibit, the Algerian National Assembly approved the country’s new Constitution, which for the first time guarantees press freedom without any form of prior censorship.

These constitutional guarantees represent a major step forward for the right and the freedom to inform in Algeria,” said Yasmine Kacha, the head of Reporters without Borders’ North Africa desk. “Nonetheless, the real value of these provisions will not be realized unless Algeria’s current legislation, especially the criminal code, is brought into line with the new Constitution and with the country’s international obligations regarding freedom of information and freedom of the media.”

Canada hopes that with the new Constitution now in effect, Algeria will take adequate measures to enact the new articles which are intended to strengthen press freedom.