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 24 October 2009 | visits 903

Morocco: Thirty-two IFEX members and 24 other organizations condemn harsh crackdown on press freedom

Cairo 24\10\2009 

We, the undersigned organizations defending press freedom and freedom of expression, call on the Moroccan government to stop the current crackdown against press freedom, which has become the most serious since King Mohamed VI was crowned in 1999.

Repression of free expression rights has been escalating for the last three months. After publishing a survey about the King’s rule, two magazines, "TelQuel" and "Nichane" were confiscated in early August because they had disrespected King Mohammed VI and “violated public morality.”
On 28 September, the Ministry of the Interior closed down "Akhbar al-Youm" without a court order and the newspaper’s editor, Taoufik Bouachrine, and cartoonist, Kalid Kadar, were brought to court on charges for the publication of a cartoon that was considered "disrespectful of a member of the royal family."
Despite procedural violations, on 15 October 2009, a Rabat misdemeanor court sentenced Driss Chahtan, editor of “Al-Michaal” newspaper, to one year in prison for publishing articles on the King's health. He was imprisoned directly after the ruling. Rashid Mahameed and Mostafa Hiran, reporters of the same paper, were also sentenced to three months in prison and fined 5,000 dirham (US$655) each though they have not been arrested.
In a separate case, editor Ali Anouzla and reporter Bochra Daou of the independent daily “Al-Jarida Al-Oula” are also being tried for publishing articles on the king's health and accused of "intentionally publishing false information.” They are set to appear in court on 26 October to hear the court's ruling in Rabat.
These trials, all directed at independent papers, demonstrate severe setbacks to freedom of expression in Morocco, which puts the press in jeopardy across the Arab region. The country was once a role model of press freedom for Arabic newspapers.
Imprisoning journalists and confiscating papers in Morocco is a violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Moroccan government is a party, which reads:
19 (2): Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and id eas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

We condemn the politically motivated trials and the on-going harassment of journalists who are carrying out their professional duties by reporting on matters of public interest.
In solidarity with the Moroccan press, we request that the government immediately stop this crackdown against press freedom by lifting the ban on "Akhbar al-Youm", overturning the criminal cases filed against journalists and repealing legislation that allows for criminal defamation. 
  1. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
  2. ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression
  3. Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
  4. Arab Archives Institute
  5. Al-Karamah "Dignity" Foundation for Human Rights, Egypt
  6. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies, Egypt
  7. Arab Commission for Human Rights
  8. Arab-European Forum for Human Rights
  9. Arab Organization for Supporting the Civil Society and Human Rights
  10. Arabic Program for Human Rights Activists, Egypt
  11. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, Egypt
  12. Awlad Alard Organization for Human Rights
  13. Bahrain Center for Human Rights
  14. Bahraini Association for Human Rights
  15. Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
  16. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  17. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
  18. Center for Media Studies & Peace Building
  19. Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala
  20. Comité por la Libre Expresión
  21. Committee to Protect Journalists
  22. Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies, Syria
  23. Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
  24. Ethiopian Freepress Journalists' Association
  25. Exiled Journalists Network
  26. Egyptian Association against Torture
  27. Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
  28. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
  29. Euro-Arab Forum for Freedom of Expression
  30. Freedom House
  31. Greek Helsinki Monitor
  32. General Assembly for Human Rights Defenders in the Arab World, France
  33. Hisham Mubarak Law Center, Egypt
  34. Human Rights First Society, Saudi Arabia
  35. Index on Censorship
  36. Institute of Mass Information
  37. International Press Institute
  38. Maharat Foundation (Skills Foundation)
  39. Media Institute of Southern Africa
  40. Media Rights Agenda
  41. Media Watch
  42. Nadeem Center for Psychological Therapy and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Violence, Egypt
  43. One World for Development and Sustainability of Civil Society
  44. Palestinian Human Rights Foundation (Monitor)
  45. Pacific Freedom Forum
  46. Pacific Islands News Association
  47. Pakistan Press Foundation
  48. Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms
  49. Public Association "Journalists"
  50. Reporters without Rights
  51. Reporters Without Borders
  52. Voix Libre pour les Droits de l'homme, Switzerland
  53. World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
  54. World Press Freedom Committee
  55. Yemeni Organization for the Defense of Democratic Rights and Freedom
  56. Center of training & protection journalists freedoms CTPJF - Yemen
  57. National Organization for Human Rights in Syria
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