Algeria threatens with prison filmmakers who undermine “national values” and religious references

Who will now risk producing a film in Algeria after the adoption, Monday, March 4, by the National People’s Assembly of a bill on the film industry? For the first time since independence, the text, which the Council of Ministers approved on December 10, 2023, provides for prison sentences for cinema professionals who do not comply with certain conditions.

It will thus cost one to three years in prison for “anyone who carries out or finances the activities of production, shooting, distribution or exploitation of cinematographic films contrary (…) to national values and constants, to the Islamic religion and other religions, to national sovereignty, to national unity, to the unity of the national territory and to the supreme interests of the nation, to the principles of the Revolution of November 1 , 1954, to the dignity of persons” or which would incite “to discrimination and hate speech.” Among the forty amendments proposed by the deputies, none called this provision into question.

The 1967 law, passed when Algeria was under single-party rule and film production was largely under the control of a public office, only provided for fines and bans on activities in the event of an infraction. . Ditto for that of 2011, worn by the minister of culture at the time, Khalida Toumi. A figure in the defense of women’s rights and democracy, she had on the other hand banned “the financing, production and exploitation of any cinematographic production attacking religions or the war of national liberation (…) glorifying colonialism or undermining public order or national unity.”

The production of films relating to the “war of national liberation” was then subject to prior authorization for the first time. “The control of any cinematographic product is an absolute right of the government,” the minister then replied to the deputies, worried by this limitation of freedom. The sanction could then vary between 500,000 and one million dinars (from 3,400 to 6,800 euros) for an unauthorized film on the war of independence.

Excess bureaucracy

The new law extends the list of subjects subject to control by the authorities. In addition to films dealing with the War of Independence, those relating to “religious themes, political events, national figures and state symbols are subject to the advisory opinion of the institutions concerned.” “Additional bureaucracy for us and a fear, even a humiliation, of seeing a scenario challenged by civil servants who do not have the skills,” laments an Algerian producer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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