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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 July, 2003, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Algeria bars foreign press
By Mohamed Arezki Himeur
BBC, Algiers

The Algerian authorities have asked all foreign correspondents to leave the country.

Ali Belhadj
Belhadj refused to sign an order not to take part in politics
Even journalists who went to the country purely to cover the release on Wednesday of the founders of the Islamic Salvation Front - FIS - have been asked to leave.

The order was given on Thursday morning by an official of the Algerian ministry of communication and culture.

Some of the journalists have left the country already, but others are preparing to leave by Thursday's afternoon.

In the meantime, they have been restricted to their hotels and banned from covering events linked to the liberation of the FIS leaders.

Friday prayers

On Wednesday afternoon, the ministry ordered resident correspondents not to write stories related to the freedom.

The order was given by telephone calls to all the correspondents - including the BBC.

Algerian mourning at a graveyard
The conflict with Islamists has had a huge toll

The ministry of communication and culture ordered reporters not to say a word about the freedom of the FIS officials.

The expulsion of the journalists comes on the eve of the weekly Friday prayers.

It is believed that the action of the Algerian Government is intended to prevent the coverage of the Friday prayers in case the released leaders decide to show up at the prayers from which they have been banned as a precondition for their release.

The released leaders are banned from all social, political, cultural and humanitarian activities.

Order refused

At the end of his 12-year detention, Abbassi Madani, one of the two released leaders, signed a document agreeing to submit to all the orders.

However, his assistant Ali Belhadj refused to sign.

He also refused protection by security agents.

Some believe that the government's clampdown on the media may encourage Mr Madani and Mr Belhadj to make public statements denouncing the government - which in turn, may result in them being sent back into detention.

Algeria frees Islamist leaders
02 Jul 03  |  Africa
Algeria mulls Islamists' release
03 Jul 03  |  Africa
Algeria's 'export of terror'
26 Feb 03  |  Africa
Country profile: Algeria
24 May 03  |  Country profiles

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