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: