Algeria recalls envoy to France over ‘malicious’ broadcasts

French public television has shown films on the Hirak protest movement

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Algeria has recalled its ambassador to France “immediately” after documentaries on the Algerian anti-government protests shown on French public television were accused of being “malicious”.

While “under the pretext of freedom of expression”, the interior ministry in Algiers said the two films "are in fact attacks on the Algerian people and its institutions", including the highly influential and powerful army.

The government criticised the “recurrent character” of broadcasts on French television but referred in particular to two documentaries shown on Tuesday on France 5 and the Parliamentary Channel.

Although Algeria’s long-standing president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, stepped down last year amid mass protests, continuing demonstrations against the authorities, known as the Hirak movement, only stopped when the coronavirus outbreak began. Crackdowns on government opponents have been ongoing, however.

The films in particular have been criticised for mentioning social taboos such as alcohol and sex and for highlighting sociocultural divisions driving the movement.

Algeria, My Love, aired by France 5, tells the story of the Hirak protest movement through the eyes of five Algerians in their 20s from across the country. Comments on social media said some of the young people interviewed were a misrepresentation of the wider Hirak movement. They also accused the film-makers of trying to portray Algeria negatively.

The 70-minute documentary was directed by the Franco-Algerian Mustapha Kessous, who said he “was dazzled by the beauty of Hirak, by its strength, its joy, its courage” and has spoken of how he “wanted to understand and explain why the Algerians had finally decided to rise after so many years of resignation”.

The second film was called Algeria: the Promises of the Dawn and broadcast on the Parliamentary Channel.

The Algerian Interior Ministry cited what it said were "malicious and lasting intentions on the part of certain circles, which do not wish to see peaceful relations between Algeria and France after 58 years of independence".

In April, France’s ambassador in Algiers was summoned to the Algerian Foreign Ministry after statements on the France 24 satellite news channel about Chinese medical aid.

Earlier this year the new Algerian President, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, called for "mutual respect" in Franco-Algerian relations, saying his country "will not accept any interference or tutelage" from abroad.

He was referring to statements made by French President Emmanuel Macron early in the Hirak protest movement, calling for "a transition of reasonable duration", remarks seen by Algiers as "interference" in its internal affairs.