(Reuters) - Police in Algeria arrested several journalists at a protest in the capital on Thursday calling for the right to cover rarely seen anti-government demonstrations which began a week ago، according to witnesses and Reuters television footage.
Dozens of journalists gathered in the city center chanting “Democracy!” before being dispersed by police. Since Friday thousands of Algerians have taken part in protests against the ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s plan to seek a fifth term in April 18 presidential elections.
Witnesses said they saw police lead away several reporters at the protest. There was no immediate government comment. State media only started covering the protests on Tuesday after journalist employees publicly complained they were being prevented from doing so.
His opponents say Bouteflika، 81، is not fit to lead and that Algeria is ruled in his name by advisers. Authorities say he retains a firm grip on public affairs despite appearing only a handful of times and giving no public speeches since he suffered stroke in 2013.
He has not directly addressed the demonstrations، some of which led to clashes between protesters and riot police.
Addressing parliament on Thursday، Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia sought to play down concerns over Bouteflika’s ill health.
“Bouteflika was sick when he sought a fourth term in 2014 but the results for the past five years were good،” he said.
Ouyahia، a member of Bouteflika’s ruling FLN (National Liberation Front) party، also said the April vote would be supervised by 400 international election monitors.
Many Algerians for years avoided politics in public fearing trouble from the omnipresent security services or disillusioned as the country has been run by the same group of veterans since the 1954-1962 independence war with France.