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Coronavirus Deals Blow to Newspapers in North Africa

A masked newspaper seller waits to make a sale in the almost empty Rosebank Mall in Johannesburg, March 22, 2020.

Measures to stem the novel coronavirus pandemic have affected the distribution and publication of newspapers across Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, according to local media and officials.

In Tunisia, seven daily newspapers and 20 weeklies have been suspended from publication by their owners in recent days, the Tunisian Federation of Newspaper Directors (FTDJ) said Thursday.

"Several subscriptions are held by government administrations and airlines which are closed and the distribution of newspapers in kiosks has suffered" as a result of a lockdown in place since March 22, FTDJ president Taieb Zahar told AFP.

In Morocco, the culture ministry last week called on editors to stop the publication and distribution of newspapers until further notice, according to the official MAP news agency.

A ministry spokesman said the decision was aimed at stemming the spread of coronavirus.

"A large number of people handle newspapers every day and this helps spread the virus, therefore it is necessary to ban them in order to safeguard the health of citizens," the spokesman said.

A few Algerian newspapers continue to publish, but in limited editions since a partial lockdown was imposed there on March 2, and they can only be found in some kiosks in the capital Algiers.

"We have been distributing the newspaper ourselves in some Algiers kiosks," said Mohamed Taher Messaoudi, a journalist for the French-language daily El Watan.

According to him, a ban on transport between provinces means that newspapers published in Algiers cannot reach other parts of the country.

Drivers, said Messaoudi, "do not want to make the rounds because of the risks linked to the illness."

Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco have taken a series of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 since the first cases were detected last month.

The COVID-19 disease has killed 83 people in Algeria, according to an official toll, 36 in Morocco and 14 in Tunisia.