By Abdul Razak bin Abdullah
ALGERIA (AA) – The Algerian authorities plan to close more than 50 private satellite channels operating in the country without a license, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal announced on Monday.
The move, Sellal said, was aimed at ending what he described as "chaos" in the Algerian media sector.
The prime minister made the announcement at a seminar in Algiers organized by the State Bureau of Intellectual Property.
"The Algerian government has tasked the minister of communications with purifying conditions [in the media sector] as soon as possible," he said.
"Out of the 60 satellite channels currently operating in Algeria, only five are licensed," he added. "The rest are working illegally and follow foreign agendas."
In late 2011, Algeria’s parliament passed a new law that ended 50 years of the government’s monopoly on the media sector.
New regulations governing the operation of private television and radio stations, however, have yet to be issued.
Since 2012, dozens of satellite television channels have begun broadcasting news and social programs in Algeria.
Under the law, these channels -- which are registered with the Communications Ministry as "foreign channels operating in Algeria" -- must broadcast their content from abroad.
According to Sellal, the current legal vacuum in the sector is "intentional".
"Our citizens should know the truth so as to apply the law in full transparency and fairness," he asserted.
"We must recognize that some of these channels violate public values and use language of hatred and strife," he said. "The media in Algeria has become polluted by the behavior of those driven by greed."
Sellal added: "We say yes to freedom of expression and a free press, but respect for the principles of Algerian society is a red line."
He went on to note that the government had prepared a draft law, which, he said, "would determine required conditions in this regard".
"Those channels that adhere to these conditions will receive licenses and benefit from the support the law will provided," he said.
"But those that violate the law will be banned from operating on Algerian territory," he added.
*Ali Abo Rezig contributed to this report