Journalist on hunger strike

New York, May 12, 2003—Moroccan journalist Ali Lmrabet, who began a hunger strike on Tuesday, May 6, to protest continued government harassment, is scheduled to appear in a court in the capital, Rabat, tomorrow to face charges including “insulting the king” and “challenging the territorial integrity of the state.”

According to Lmrabet, in April, police questioned him twice about recent articles in his magazines, Demain and its Arabic sister paper, Douman. The issues included an interview with Abdullah Zaazaa, a vocal opponent of Morocco’s monarchy; a satirical photomontage of the wedding of former interior minister Driss Basri’s daughter, which lampooned government officials; and an article about the royal court’s finances. (See CPJ’s April 17 letter to King Muhammad VI.)

State prosecutors formally charged Lmrabet on April 21 in connection with the articles. He was slated to appear in court on May 7, but Lmrabet began a hunger strike on May 6 and told CPJ that he refused to appear in court the next day.

The hearing was rescheduled for tomorrow, May 13. Lmrabet told CPJ that he will attend. If convicted, the journalist faces up to five years in prison.

Lmrabet also said he received a call last week from a manager at Ecoprint, the printing house where Demain and Douman are published, and was told that the company would no longer be able to print his magazines. Lmrabet said the manager told him that he had been receiving “pressure” not to print to the weeklies but did not specify the source of this pressure.

“Once again, we call on Moroccan authorities to cease harassing and intimidating independent journalists,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “The case against Ali Lmrabet should be dropped immediately, and he should be allowed to continue his professional work without any official interference.”