Algeria set to criminalize all forms of racism and hate speech in the country

Algeria's Bouteflika

The president of protest-hit Algeria, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, plans to outlaw hate speech that has proliferated on social networks in recent months.

Tebboune asked Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad to draft a bill criminalizing all forms of racism and hate speech in the country.

The new initiative follows an upsurge in hate speech and incitement, the presidential statement said.

Algerian social networks have become a battleground for rival political camps after they gave rise to the popular “Hirak” protest movement that in April ended the 20-year reign of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The tone became more aggressive in the run-up to a December 12 presidential election, held in the face of strong opposition from the protest movement which saw the polls as an attempt by the establishment to consolidate its power.

All five candidates who ran in the poll had links to Bouteflika, with Tebboune having served as one of his prime ministers. Official turnout was less than 40 percent.

The law would allow authorities to confront those who exploit the freedom and peaceful nature of Hirak by brandishing slogans that undermine national cohesion. The initiative has sparked fierce debate on social media between those who back it and those who see it as an unnecessary measure, with some wary that it could give wide scope to crack down on legitimate protest.