Three weeks into mass political protests, Algeria's president Abdelaziz Bouteflika has given in by withdrawing his bid for a fifth term in office. The announcement did not come from Bouteflika himself, as the 82-year-old has hardly been seen in public since he suffered a stroke six years ago that left him in a wheelchair.

For now, Algeria's invisible ruler is still in office, and his indefinite postponement of next month's election suggests he may not be going anywhere soon. Algeria's social media space has been occupied by protesters, driving the street movement and providing their own coverage of it.

Citizens have learned not to count on the mainstream media - especially broadcasters. They have long been controlled by the state and criticism of the ailing ruler was scarce.

But things are changing. Dissenting voices, long banned from the airwaves, are being heard once again. Reporters at government-backed outlets have been criticising the journalism of their own channels.

When the protests initially broke out, the state-owned news channels Canal Algerie and ENTV both buried their heads in the sand, ignoring them. But four days into the protests in the capital, on February 26, journalists held one of their own over the orders they were getting from above, preventing them from doing their job.

"That was a pretty significant moment in that ordinary journalists, were basically saying: this is not acceptable, and were able to act on that," explains James McDougall, author of A History of Algeria.

"Whereas, previously, that step maybe wouldn't have been taken. And the extent to which civil society really was mobilising in support of the movement caught the regime off-guard. And that response, by just trying to ignore the news, simply wasn't going to fly."

Every war results in casualties and the battle for truth in Algeria has produced a few.

Merouane Lounnas spent 12 years hosting a programme on a state-owned radio channel, RAI. His show was cancelled this past week because he did not choose his words carefully enough. And Lounnas did not even speak directly on the protests or the politics. His crime was speaking philosophically and allegorically.

"Certain people in public media do not understand the transformation happening in Algerian society today and still behave with a controlling mentality, a mentality that is outdated. The people-led demonstrations have proven that this mentality belongs in the past," says Lounnas.

Having been through such an uprising before, having then watched their neighbours do the same, Algerians have fewer illusions than most. They know what hasn't changed is that President Bouteflika is still in the picture. That "le pouvoir", or the powers that be, who have backed the president for so long are still there. Algerians also know that their news media, which is showing signs of life could revert to old habits at any time.

Source: Al Jazeera