A Newspaper Editor Talks On Algeria's 'Dirty War'

SALIMA Ghezali is editor of La Nation, an intellectual weekly newspaper published in Algiers. Like many Algerian journalists, Ms. Ghezali sleeps in a different house every night because of terrorist threats against journalists. She recently talked about the conflict in her country between the Army-backed government and Islamists.

Is the regime's policy of 'eradicating' Islamist guerrillas merely delaying the inevitability of an Islamic fundamentalist state -- and radicalizing the situation even more in the process?

The government purports to prevent an Islamist state, but that is very different from being democratic. Its entire policy shows in its daily actions that it is moving in the opposite direction.

Do you think the Armed Islamic Group is provoked by the state?

What is clear is that the government has an opportunity, offered by the Rome Agreement [a pact signed last January by major opposition parties, including Islamists] to reinstate the political process in order to put an end to this crisis, something that the government refuses [to do].

The government claims to be stanching the violence.

Journalists are only brought here at a time when an invisible war is taking place in Algeria, a war that the Algerians do not even see. When you turn on the television, you see what the government wants to show you. Nothing is reported about the real war, so you can imagine that outside of Algeria, people see even less.

Many people here say the government is perpetuating most of the violence.

Given the government's monopoly on information, you have to know that we journalists, for example, cannot talk about what happens on the security front. There are very strict laws, dictating that we take the communiques from the security services. If in front of my house or at my work place an act of terrorism or violence takes place, I cannot talk about it if it is not mentioned in the communique of the security services.

Are the government and the Army one and the same?

The problem is in the interaction between the Army, the money [financial interests], the political power, and the refusal by the regime to let everyone assume their appropriate functions and responsibilities -- that the Army take care of the Army, that the politicians take care of politics and provide explanations, and we should know financially who is who, who is doing what, and how.

In order to qualify for new International Monetary Fund loans, will the government give up its control of the economic system?

I am not an economist, but what we can say is that what is fundamentally at stake is the economy. If we are able to have transparency in the management of the oil revenues, which are presently treated as a revenue, and which are not a revenue but a heavy mortgage on Algeria and its future, this will mean that we will have overcome the crisis. The day transparency prevails in the management of the economic questions, that will mean we are on the path to democracy.

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