State television bars Al-Jazeera from using its facilities

New York, April 3, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is alarmed by state-owned Moroccan public television’s (TVM) decision to bar the satellite television station Al-Jazeera from using its facilities to feed broadcasts to the station’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

Al-Jazeera’s correspondent in Morocco, Iqbal Ilhami, told CPJ that on March 30, she and her crew had completed a report on demonstrations in the capital, Rabat, opposing the U.S.-led war in Iraq and went to TVM’s facilities to feed the tape to Doha. Ilhami said that when she arrived at TVM, she was told that there were orders not to allow Al-Jazeera to use the facilities. Ilhami was not told who gave these orders or why they were given.

Ilhami contacted Morocco’s communications minister, Nabil Bin Abdallah, who, she said, told her that Al-Jazeera should refrain from transmitting reports that endangered the general security of Morocco.

Boushra Bourara, a spokeswoman at the Communications Ministry, told CPJ that the decision not to allow Al-Jazeera to use TVM’s facilities had nothing to do with the station’s report on the Rabat demonstrations. Bourara said that Al-Jazeera was not allowed to use the facilities because the station had aired two erroneous reports in the weeks since the war began, in violation of its agreement with TVM.

“If the Communications Ministry believes that Al-Jazeera’s reports were erroneous, it should demand a correction,” said CPJ acting director Joel Simon. “Censorship is not the answer.”