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When Algeria's Police Fail to Act, Citizen Journalists Step in

Not long after evidence of police abuse was exposed by citizen journalists there last month, cyber activists in the city of Ghardaïa have once again uncovered failings of Algeria's police forces, this time for not stepping in to protect a man who was killed in public after being kidnapped by a group of local gangsters.

Sectarian tensions in this region situated in the heart of the M'zab valley are high. Cyber activists and citizen journalists are doubling their efforts to expose the violent clashes between the Ibadites minority (also known in this region as Mozabites) and the majority made of Muslim Sunni communities, publishing video evidence on YouTube. The publicity generated by the activists’ first videos showing police abuse against Ibadites prompted Algerian authorities to launch an investigation and sanction the officers involved.

The goal of these citizen journalists is clear: share the reality on the ground with the Algerian population, whose awareness of the situation is obscured by the lack of reporting in the mainstream media. In fact, many facts and elements of the situation are not reported. For instance, the media seldom reports on the complicity of security forces with local thugs who vandalize and wreck havoc in the city to increase sectarian conflict between the Ibadites and the Sunni. The photos below taken by Mozabites activists show the reality of the crimes occurring in Ghardaïa right under the nose of police:

Photo gardaia activistes

Photo posted on Facebook by Ghardaia activists showing crime evidence in the city. Used with permission.

Among the crimes exposed by the activists was the case of 21-year-old Mozabite youngster Babaousmail Azzedine. Azzedine was attacked in public after being kidnapped by local gangsters on February 5, 2014. The youngster succumbed shortly after to his injuries, as a result of 20 knife wounds he received.

The crime shook Ghardaïa to its core. Yet Azzedine assassins are still free. Activists retrieved amateurs photos of the murder captured by eyewitnesses and assembled all the video and photographic evidence adding captions as well as geographical and historical annotations. The footage shows Azzedine's aggressors as they assaulted him:

Disseminated via YouTube, citizen journalism website Envoyés Spéciaux Algériens (Algerian Special Envoys) [fr, ar] and independent news site Algérie-Focus [fr], the video went viral and sparked public outcry. It comes at a time when the Interior Minister and the Chief of the Algerian Police were visiting the region in an attempt to appease the situation. Still, local authorities have yet to arrest anyone in the murder, but an investigation was launched by the national armed forces to track down Azzedine's murderers, who can be clearly identified in this video:

In the meantime, numerous online communities are working together to alert Algerian authorities to the situation in the region and to pressure them into acting against sectarian violence in M'zab. Ghardaïa News [fr] and Ahdath Ghardaïa  (Gharadaia Events) [fr, ar] are two news sites that regularly fight to report on the violence against the Mozabite population.

The tremendous work of these activists was not in vain. The impunity of the criminals was publicly revealed, putting the Algerian authorities in a compromising situation and forcing them into action. Violence hasn't stopped in Ghardaïa, but this a positive step forward for the local population.

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