Riot police block protesters during a demonstration in downtown Algiers, January 22, 2011. A small group of Algerian opposition supporters trying to hold a banned protest clashed with police in the capital and several people were injured, protest organizers and official media said on Saturday. Reuters

The authorities in Algeria have shut down internet providers and Facebook accounts amidst mounting anti-government protests and civil unrest.

Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators calling for the resignation of President Abdelaziz Boutifleka were arrested in the capital city, Algiers, and other cities across the North African country. Reportedly, journalists chronicling the disturbances were beaten by government-supported thugs.

The government doesn't want us forming crowds through the internet, said Rachid Salem, of Co-ordination for Democratic Change in Algeria according to press reports. Security forces are armed to the teeth out on the street, and they're also doing everything to crush our uprising on the internet. Journalists, and especially those with cameras, are being taken away by the police.

Despite boasting vast natural gas reserves, Algeria is beset with high joblessness, a housing shortage, massive poverty and political corruption – conditions very similar to Tunisia and Egypt.

The internet was key in bringing down the repressive regimes in Egypt and Tunisia.

Algerians want their voices to be heard too. They want democratic change,” said Mostafa Boshashi, head of the Algerian League for Human Rights. At the moment people are being prevented from travelling to demonstrations. The entrances to cities like Algeria have been blocked. I am sorry to say the government has deployed a huge force to prevent a peaceful march. This is not good for Algeria's image.”

Algerians must be allowed to express themselves freely and hold peaceful protests in Algiers and elsewhere, Amnesty International said in a statement.