Algerian authorities shut down El Watan TV


Rebecca Hawkes

| 14 October 2015

The private channel El Watan TV has been taken off air in Algeria days after it broadcast an interview with a former Islamist insurgent who criticised the country's president.

A government complaint had already been made against the television station, following remarks on 3 October by Madani Meszrag, the former head of the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS) – the armed wing of the banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). Meszrag criticised President Abdelziz Bouteflika for allegedly preventing his moves to create a political party.

In a statement, the Algerian Communications Ministry said the channel "operates in an illegal manner and broadcasts subversive content and was detrimental to state symbols".

London-based El Watan TV, which broadcasts via satellite from Cyprus, also has offices in Amman, Madrid and Geneva.

"The communications minister last week threatened to prosecute the channel via judiciary channels, today we are surprised with the sudden closure order," Dfajar Chelli, El Watan TV's owner, is reported as saying in Middle East Monitor.

Chelli will reportedly appeal the decision.