A court in Algiers ruled on Wednesday to annul a takeover by Algeria's richest businessman of the country's largest Arabic- language newspaper and an affiliated TV channel.
The case was brought by the communication ministry against Ness-Prod, a subsidiary of the agribusiness group Cevital after it acquired a 80 percent stake in the private media group El Khabar.
The case stirred debate after Cevital's owner, Issad Rebrab, said plans to halt the takeover were politically motivated and attempt to muzzle opponents. The ministry rejected that accusation saying it was an antimonopoly issue.
"The verdict is in line with the law. The other side will have two months to appeal," Brahim Benhadid, a lawyer for the ministry, told reporters outside the court after the judgement.
The ministry said its case was based on a law that bans ownership of more than one newspaper. Rebrab owns the French-language daily Liberte. There was no immediate comment from Cevital's lawyers. They did not attend the hearing.
Rebrab is not directly involved in politics, but he has taken positions critical of the government. El Khabar is one of the more independent voices in the Algerian media, and critics see the government's effort to block the takeover as a threat to press freedom.