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In Algeria, the Hirak protest movement continues despite pandemic with new 'Coronavirus Radio' Open in fullscreen

The New Arab & agencies

In Algeria, the Hirak protest movement continues despite pandemic with new 'Coronavirus Radio'

Algeria is transmitting the message via radio [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 April, 2020

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With people forced to socially isolate in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, one radio host has found a novel way to keep the Hirak protest movement alive: radio.
A new online broadcaster, called Radio Corona Internationale (RCI), has been continuing the Hirak movement as people are forced to stay at home due to coronavirus.

Created by an Algerian expat who lives in the US, the one-hour talk show airs live via Facebook on Tuesdays and Fridays – to coincide with the days that protesters would otherwise take to the streets in their anti-government movement.

The movement had lost momentum after the coronavirus pandemic reached the country and authorities clamped down on public gatherings.

Algeria has 2,160 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 336 deaths and 708 recoveries. 

The show's host is Algerian broadcaster Abdellah Benadouda, 49, who fled the country in 2014 after a dispute with Dzair TV, owned by Ali Haddad, a close associate of the Bouteflika family – many of whom are currently in prison for corruption.

"I missed the revolution," Benadouda told local news from his home in Rhode Island, US.

Though he missed the bubbling revolution in person, he said, the radio was a way to continue its spirit.

It was "a way to reinvent the Hirak in the time of confinement," he said.

RCI gives its audience the opportunity to interact with the host on issues that are discussed by sending text messages and audio messages to the program.

"Dear coronists, we give you the floor to tell us about your confinement or ask us questions or criticise us," RCI's Facebook page reads.

It's a "very democratic" concept, said Benadouda, who is also a trained veterinarian, and who now works from a basic home studio consisting of a PC, a mobile phone and a speaker.

"This programme is driven by our deepest state of mind: freedom," said the self-exiled journalist.

Contributors include Algerian columnists dispersed as far as Paris and Doha, while the playlist features popular protest anthems and politically sensitive rap.

The programme is characterised by comical puns and a jovial tone, but its message is serious - a recent show was dedicated to Karim Tabbou, an emblematic figure of the anti-regime movement who is now in prison.

Another show discussed the shut-down of online media sites Maghreb Emergent and Radio M, one of whose hosts, Khaled Drareni, has been in preventive detention since March 29, shortly after he had covered an Algiers demonstration.

"It is in adversity that we remain united," Benadouda said on air last Friday.

"The state must understand this."

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