"From seekers of knowledge to seekers of passion" — this was the headline of a recent investigative television show broadcasted on the "Al-Nahar" channel in Algeria
that has shaken up the North African Country. Using hidden cameras, the investigation attempted to follow the lives of Algerian female students on university campuses.
The investigation program titled "Top Secret" aims to expose issues considered taboo in Algerian society; the first episode dealt with abortions carried out in secret by young women.
The episode did not stir up much interest, but the same could not be said about the following episode, that dealt with the wild, hedonistic lifestyle of students.
Equipped with a small camera, the two journalists
who prepared the investigative show posed as students,
and managed to sneak into no fewer than 10 student living units. The result was a close look into the lives of students that challenge social conventions and local tradition, and go out at nights, meeting men at hotels and private apartments.
Screenshots from show
The investigation also revealed that some students consume alcohol — contrary to the Islamic prohibition — and abuse drugs.
And if that's not enough, some pay their dorm security guards approximately $70 to let them leave the domains after "curfew".
Angry reactions quickly surfaced. Students who reside in the state's capital Algiers organized a protest
in front of the "Al-Nahar" TV channel offices to express their opposition to the content presented in the program.
They argued that the lifestyles presented in the show do not reflect the lives of the majority of students. "We demand an apology from the channel", protestors said. Student organizations affiliated with the Islamic party slammed the program, and also said that the students shown in the show represent a minority.
"The show was very one-sided and focused solely on an unethical aspect of life in student dorms. We wish the interview would have ended with the more modest and studious students, as to give the show a more balanced perspective. Unfortunately that didn't happen," said Abdul-Malik, a member of a student organization affiliated with the Islamic party.
What do the authorities have to say on the subject? The Minister of Higher Education in Algeria appeared on national television and tried to calm angry and concerned parents: "Your daughters are pure and honorable. They are at a safe haven."
In addition, he threatened that the state would sue the private channel that produced the investigative program.
Following the broadcast of the show, a campaign was launched on Facebook warning Algerian girls to "not fall into the trap of impurity".
However the man credited for the investigative television program, Yousef Nakaa, was not flustered by the public storm that broke out and said that there were quite a few viewers who were actually impressed with what they saw.
He added that "the broadcasted material does not represent more than one percent of the reality captured by cameras. The content shows respect for the conservative, Algerian society."