Algerian president Bouteflika sacks state television head: Ennahar TV

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Journalists protest in front of the state TV building in Algiers

Journalists working at state media carry banners and shout slogans during a protest in front of the state TV building to demand freedom to cover mass protests against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, Algeria March 25, 2019. The banner reads, "No to censorship, No to opacity". REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, facing mass protests against his 20-year rule, sacked the head of the state television, private Ennahar TV channel reported on Monday.

Lotfi Chriet replaced Toufik Khelladi, Ennahar added. There was no immediate official confirmation.

The reported sacking comes after journalists working at state media had staged a protest in front of the state TV building to demand freedom to cover protests against Bouteflika, which are now in its fifth week.

"For a public television free and open for all," read one banner held up at the protest. State media has started covering the protests after initially ignoring them.

Khelladi is close to Bouteflika's brother Said, a presidential advisor and major political player whose name has been shouted in slogans by protesters alongside Bouteflika's.

The 82-year old, who has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, bowed to the protesters this month by reversing plans to seek re-election.

But he stopped short of quitting as head of state and said he would stay on until a new constitution is adopted. The move further enraged Algerians, and many of Bouteflika's allies have turned against him.

(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed amd Lamine Chikhi, writing by Nayera Abdallah and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Angus MacSwan)