December 8, 2000
His Majesty King Muhammad VI
The Royal Palace
Rabat, The Kingdom of Morocco
BY FASCIMILE: 011-212- 37 76 85 15
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to protest the Moroccan government’s decision to ban the weekly newspapers Demain, Le Journal, and Al-Sahiffa.
On December 2, the government released a statement saying the three newspapers were banned because they had attacked “the most sacred institutional bases of our country” and threatened “the stability of the state.” The statement added: “In insulting reality … and fabricating history, these papers have created doubt and sowed confusion in the spirit of Moroccans.”
The three papers were banned for publishing or commenting on a letter allegedly written by former Moroccan leftist leader Mohamed Basri in 1974, implicating socialist politicians in the failed August 1972 coup attempt against the late King Hassan II. In the context of modern Moroccan politics, the letter is explosive because it suggests that the current prime minister, Abderrahmane Youssoufi, was involved in an attempt to assassinate Your Majesty’s late father.
The French-language Le Journal is published from Morocco but printed in France, while its Arabic-language sister publication Al-Sahiffa is printed domestically. Both papers published the letter on November 25 and also ran commentary about it. The French-language Demain, a Moroccan paper that prints in Spain, covered the issue but did not publish the letter itself. The banning of all three newspapers was carried out in accordance with Article 77 of the Press Law, which allows the government to suppress publications deemed to threaten Morocco’s political or religious foundations.
The banning of Demain, Le Journal, and Al-Sahiffa is a naked attempt by the Moroccan government to silence independent and critical media, in violation of the most basic international norms for free expression. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular, guarantees journalists the right to “seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
These closures are part of an alarming pattern of government restrictions on press freedom in Morocco documented by CPJ this year. The restrictions include censorship,
the criminal prosecution of journalists, and other forms of harassment directed against reporters. CPJ raised a number of these cases with Prime Minister Youssoufi in letters dated April 19 and May 17.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, CPJ respectfully urges Your Majesty to ensure that the government ban on Demain, Le Journal, and Sahiffa is lifted immediately and that all three papers are allowed to resume publication without further hindrance.
Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience.
Ann K. Cooper