Algerian government to boost dialogue with people: minister

AFP , Sunday 6 Mar 2011

Algeria's government is studying ways to improve dialogue with the public including the use of social media, a day after police cracked down on anti-regime rallies

Communication Minister Nacer Mehal said Algiers was close to setting up measures to amend what he said were virtually non-existent channels of information dissemination between the government and the wider population.

The move aims at "organising institutional communication and to reflect on instruments that allow to improve relations between the state and the citizens," he told the French-speaking public radio Chaine III.

Communication was "absolutely non-existent, absent, or in any case, very inefficient. To say the least, it was not at all adapted to the present context. We need to improve that," he added.

"We need to look into what channels of communication to use, including social networks."

Sites such as Facebook were crucial in organising recent uprisings across the Arab world that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.

The minister also promised to "open up" ministries to journalists although it was unclear the extent of transparency and accountability that government bodies would be subjected to.

Algeria counts several independent newspapers, among which a dozen are national dailies. But allowing public radio or television groups to compete with other domestic or foreign networks remains unforeseen.

Algerian police and pro-government activists on Saturday foiled a sixth attempt by opposition protesters seeking to depose President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999.

In a bid to appease simmering public anger, Bouteflika, 73, promised last month to place "anti-corruption" at the heart of government action, along with reforms to help the economy, employment and housing.

He also lifted martial law for the first time in 19 years.

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