A private television channel which has strongly criticised the Algerian government has been ordered to stop broadcasting after police raided its headquarters.

Ghoul Hafnaoui, the information director at Al Atlas, told AFP on Wednesday that the satellite channel went off air mid-morning, "under orders from the authorities", a day after police searched its premises and seized equipment.

The public prosecutor ordered the search as part of an investigation whose purpose had not been made known, Hafnaoui said.

Our editorial line upsets the regime. Our channel frequently criticises its current policies

Ghoul Hafnaoui, information director at Al Atlas

"We were searched on Tuesday afternoon. The 45 journalists working for the channel were held for four hours inside the headquarters," in the Birkhadem district of the capital, he added.

Uniformed and plainclothes police took about 10 cameras from the building, while security forces also visited the channel's studios in Baba Ali, in south Algiers, which they sealed off.

Hafnaoui said he believed the move was a response to programmes critical of the government, in the run-up to next month's presidential election.

"Our editorial line upsets the regime. Our channel frequently criticises its current policies," Hafnaoui said.

Ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika last week confirmed that he would seek a fourth term in office, a move which has sparked anger and derision in Algeria due to his fragile health.

His critics have charged that the 77-year-old leader, hospitalised for three months in Paris last year after suffering a mini stroke and very rarely seen in public, is not fit to run the country.

The government allowed several satellite TV channels to open studios in Algiers last year, and the national assembly passed a new broadcast law in January opening the sector up to the private sector after a 50-year state monopoly. But the law has yet to come into force.

Reporters Without Border ranked Algeria 125th out of 179 countries classified in its 2013 world press freedom index.

Source: AFP