Algeria Expels AFP Bureau Chief
Agence France-Presse bureau chief Aymeric Vincenot was expelled from Algeria on Tuesday after the authorities refused to renew his press accreditation for 2019.
Vincenot, 45, who has been in post in Algiers since June 2017, had to depart the country after his residency permit ran out and a final police deadline to leave expired.
His expulsion comes amid political tensions in Algeria and weeks of unprecedented protests, which forced president Abdelaziz Bouteflika first to abandon hopes of running for a fifth term and then to resign on April 2.
First launched on February 22, and fuelled mainly by the country's burgeoning youth, the huge protest movement is continuing despite the resignation of the long-time leader.
Apart from seeking the departure of Bouteflika and his entourage, demonstrators are demanding the dismantling of Algeria's whole political system which has ruled the country since independence from France in 1962.
"This decision taken under the presidency of Bouteflika is unacceptable and it is out of the question for us, in these circumstances, to appoint a successor for the time being," said AFP chairman Fabrice Fries in a statement.
"By depriving us of our bureau chief, this decision seriously affects our presence in Algeria, which is there to provide exhaustive and rigorous coverage of the historic events that are currently underway."
Fries stressed that AFP is "not giving up" on covering the events in Algeria, highlighting that the agency had been given permission to send several special envoys to the country in recent weeks.
AFP would also continue to request further visas for other journalists to cover the events, Fries said.
Vincenot's residency permit expired on February 28 and he had been left without press accreditation since the end of 2018.
His request to renew his press card for 2019, which is a key requirement in order to obtain a residency permit, received no response from the Algerian authorities, despite AFP's best efforts to obtain an explanation.
Vincenot had to leave on Tuesday when the final deadline given to him by the police ran out.
Algerian authorities have never officially informed the agency of their decision nor their reasons for expelling Vincenot. They simply outlined verbally various grievances to a senior member of AFP's management, during a visit to Algiers in March.
These included the AFP bureau chief's coverage of the current events and the health of Bouteflika. But they failed to provide evidence of any wrongdoing, and Vincenot was not given any right of reply.
AFP is one of the world's leading news agencies, covering the news across the world 24 hours a day in text, video, photo and graphics in six languages. It is present in 151 countries, and it has maintained a bureau in Algeria since 1962.
- Solidarity â€“
In its last report on press freedom, Reporters without Borders ranked Algeria in 136th place out of 180 countries.
In late March, Reuters special envoy, Tunisian journalist Tarek Amara, was expelled from Algeria where he had spent several days covering the anti-government protests.
The Algerian authorities gave no explanation for his expulsion. Reuters told AFP he had been given proper accreditation as a special envoy.
Several weeks earlier, about 10 journalists were arrested and held for several hours after taking part in a protest to denounce the pressures and restrictions imposed by their bosses on their coverage of the demonstrations.
Reporters without Borders condemned the arrests, and "the brutal intervention of the security forces."
In his statement, Fries voiced AFP's "solidarity" with "Algerian journalists, who are bravely doing their work in particularly difficult conditions".
A veteran journalist, Vincenot joined AFP in 2000 and has been sent on various missions by the agency especially in Africa.
He was deputy bureau chief for central Africa, based in Libreville, from 2004-2008, a special envoy in Afghanistan in 2011, and was posted in Nairobi from 2012 to 2016 covering east African nations.
AFP has some 1,500 journalists, serving media clients around the world.