Anti-Bouteflika protests continue

Algerians hold new demonstrations against fifth term for wheelchair-bound President amid media complaint about blackout imposed on coverage.

ALGIERS - Hundreds of people demonstrated Sunday in the Algerian capital against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term, as state radio journalists complained about a blackout imposed on coverage.

Police sprayed tear gas, brought in a water cannon and rounded up several people as shopkeepers pulled down their shutters, an AFP journalist said.

Turnout was much lower than on Friday when tens of thousands took to the streets including in Algiers, where demonstrations are strictly banned.

State media has been silent on the protests and national radio journalists on Sunday complained that they were being prevented from reporting on the opposition to Bouteflika.

In an unsigned letter to management seen by AFP they slammed the "decision by the hierarchy to ignore" the rallies and deplored the skewing of coverage in favour of the incumbent.

On Saturday, a top editor at the national radio Meriem Abdou said that she had quit in protest over the restrictions being placed on journalists.

Security forces arrested more than 40 people after Friday's protest, which saw police fire tear gas to block a march on the presidential palace, prompting demonstrators to respond with stone-throwing.

Sunday's rally came in response to a call by opposition group Mouwatana.

It began when a group of 50 people gathered at the Place Audin in the centre of Algiers.

Security forces, deployed from the early hours of the morning and backed by a police helicopter, evacuated the central square, prompting the demonstrators to head elsewhere.

Joined by hundreds of others they rallied along Didouche Mourad, a main shopping street which was closed to traffic and blocked by police, chanting "Algeria, free and democratic".

Mouwatana coordinator Soufiane Djilali said that 15 members of the group were detained along with "dozens" of other people. AFP could not independently verify these figures.

Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, announced on February 10 that he will run for another term in office.

The president's office has said Bouteflika will travel to Switzerland on Sunday for "routine medical checks" ahead of the April 18 presidential election.

He has had a long battle with illness and has frequently flown to France for treatment.

Bouteflika is Algeria's longest-serving president and a veteran of its independence struggle who has clung to power since 1999 despite his ill health.