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Algeria Tightens Press Restrictions

FILE - A man looks at newspapers on display in Algiers. A new law imposes even tighter restrictions on media ownership and reporters' privilege. Taken Sept. 21, 2010.

ALGIERS - Algeria's parliament on Thursday passed a law further restricting press freedom in the North African country by tightening media ownership rules and preventing journalists from protecting sources.

The law bans domestic media outlets from receiving funding or "direct and indirect material aid" from abroad, under threat of criminal prosecution including fines of up to roughly $15,000.

It holds that "professional secrecy is a right," but in contradiction, allows courts to force journalists to reveal their sources.

It also bans dual nationals from owning all or part of media outlets, and journalists working for foreign media organizations without accreditation could be fined almost $7,600.

Cherif Driss, a political science professor at the University of Algiers, said examining the bills' "accompanying legal documents" would be key to finding out "whether this is really a new law or reproduces the old one".

He said Algeria often delays the publication of subsidiary legislation that clarifies new laws, something members of parliament have also criticized.

Earlier this month an Algiers court sentenced prominent journalist Ihsane El Kadi to three years in prison for "foreign financing of his business" in a case denounced by rights groups.

Algeria ranks 134th out of 180 countries and territories on Reporters Without Borders' 2022 World Press Freedom Index.