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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Herald warns of pro-democracy "militants"

Algeria braces for pro-democracy protests

Hundreds of police began taking up positions the night before a pro-democracy protest march in Algiers by militants who have vowed to defy an official ban.

The planned march is aimed at pressing for reforms to push this oil- and gas-rich North African giant toward democracy.

The weeks-long uprising in Egypt that forced Hosni Mubarak to abandon the presidency after 30 years was bound to fuel the hopes of Algerians seeking change - as did the "people's revolution" in neighbouring Tunisia. A month of deadly uprisings there pushed Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile Jan. 14.

However, many Algerians fear any prospect of conflict after years of a brutal insurgency by Islamist extremists that has left an estimated 200,.000 dead. There is no specific call by organisers of the protest march to oust President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

With scattered strikes and clashes, including five days of rioting in early January, the atmosphere in Algiers has been tense.

There have been numerous copy-cat suicides, and attempted suicides, in Algeria like the self-immolation attempt by a young man that set off the Tunisian protests in mid-December.

The Coordination for Democratic Change in Algeria, an umbrella group of human rights activists, unionists, lawyers and others, insists the march will take place despite numerous warnings by authorities to stay out of the streets.

Buses and vans filled with armed police were posted at strategic points along the march route and around Algiers, including at the "Maison de la Presse," a small village in Algiers where newspapers have their headquarters.

The daily El Watan said Friday that barricades were thrown up on roads leading to Algiers, apparently to stop busloads of potential demonstrators expected to descend on the capital.

In a clear bid to placate militants, Algerian authorities announced last week that a state of emergency in place since 1992, at the start of the Islamist insurgency, will be lifted in the "very near future."

However, it maintained a ban on demonstrations in the capital.

Authorities offered to allow Saturday's demonstrators to rally in a meeting hall.

Just when we thought the journalism in New Zealand on international affairs couldn't possibly get any worse, the Herald begins propagating the idea of pro-democracy "militants" in Algeria via articles from the Associated Press in the ultimate non-sequitur. Yes, that's right, the bogeyman under your bed is not the communists, not Islam, but the pro-democracy activists, human rights agencies, lawyers and unionists.

Never mind that public protests have been banned in Algeria since 1992 under their emergency laws. Never mind the context of the protests, for which the UN and other human rights organizations have repeatedly drawn attention to the use of disappearances, illegal detentions, torture and violence as state techniques. Never mind that the footage that is emerging from the protesters appears to show peaceful protests (see below). Never mind that there are around 30,000 police attempting to control several hundred protesters.

When are our major newspapers going to provide us with some decent objective analysis? I note that not one journalist appears to have questioned the way that Key has sent McCully out to talk on Egypt, presumably so that no one questions him on his ridiculous stance on Breakfast a couple of weeks ago that we only support Mubarak as our only friend in the region other than Israel?

Should the NZ Herald honor journalistic principles of objectivity in its reporting? Or do you believe that the newspaper does not count as news and that people who are interested in these issues don't read the Herald as they understand its journalism is appalling?


At 14/2/11 12:55 am, Blogger JonL said...

Like most major papers, The NZ Herald is a joke.
The sooner it goes broke, the better!

At 16/2/11 7:27 am, Blogger AAMC said...

Problem is JonL, a lot of people read it and believe it. It's coverage of Egypt, or the headlines I read before jumping ship for a more credible source also seemed totally at odds with what BBC, NYT, Guardian and co were reporting. It may be a joke, but it's a dangerous joke.


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