Appeals court upholds record damages against independent weekly
April 19, 2006 12:00 PM ET
New York, April 19, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by a Moroccan appeals court decision to uphold record damages against the independent magazine Le Journal Hebdomadaire in a defamation suit brought by a Belgian think tank. The magazine, which said it was prevented from mounting a proper defense, now faces bankruptcy.
The weekly, long the target of government harassment for its critical reporting, was sued by Claude Moniquet, head of the Brussels-based European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center.
“The court proceedings throughout this lawsuit have been unfair to Le Journal Hebdomadaire, fuelling suspicion that the judgments are politically motivated,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “This is a sad day for Moroccans who could soon be deprived of one of the country’s most independent publications. We urge Claude Moniquet not to enforce this disturbing judgment and spare the magazine.”
On April 18, the Rabat Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling awarding 3 million dirhams (US$327,000) in damages to Moniquet who said that Le Journal Hebdomadaire had defamed him and his institute in a six-page critique last year questioning the independence of a report on the disputed Western Sahara. The report was described as reflecting the official views of the Moroccan government. Moniquet said he objected to the article which portrayed the report as being “guided by” and possibly paid for by the Moroccan government. The court also fined the magazine a total of 100,000 dirhams (US$10,900).
Aboubakr Jamai, Le Journal Hebdomadaire’s publisher, told CPJ that the damages, the largest ever awarded against a Moroccan publication for defamation, would force the magazine to close. Ali Amar, director of Le Journal Hebdomadaire, told CPJ that the magazine would only be able to continue if the plaintiff did not enforce the judgment.
Le Journal Hebdomadaire withdrew from both the appeal hearing and the lower court trial because it was barred from introducing an expert witness. The Moroccan judiciary is widely viewed as lacking independence and is under the influence of high government officials. Moroccan state-run media have eagerly covered the lawsuit, condemning the publication and highlighting the claims of the plaintiff.
Le Journal Hebdomadaire and its sister publication, Assahifa al-Ousbouiya, have been harassed by the government for their reporting on corruption, corporate impropriety, and taboo political topics. On February 15 and 16, Moroccan authorities orchestrated protests against Le Journal Hebdomadaire for publishing a photograph of a French newspaper which showed some of the controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. In 2000, authorities banned editions of both publications when Le Journal Hebdomadaire crossed a political redline by publishing an interview with Muhammad Abdelaziz, leader of the Polisario Front rebel movement, which has been fighting Morocco for independence of Western Sahara since the 1970s.
Moroccan court convicts local publisher of criminal defamation
February 14, 2018 1:05 PM ET
New York, February 14, 2018--Moroccan authorities should drop all charges against Akhbar al-Youm columnist and publisher Taoufik Bouachrine on appeal, and allow him to work without fear of reprisal, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today....
Moroccan authorities detain, expel British journalist
September 29, 2017 10:01 AM ET
New York, September 29, 2017--Moroccan authorities should lift any restriction on journalist Saeed Kamali Dehghan's ability to travel to the country, and allow all journalists to report freely on matters of public interest, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Plainclothes policemen on September 27 detained Dehghan while he...
New York, July 27, 2017--Moroccan authorities should lift any restriction on the ability of journalists José Luis Navazo and Fernando Sanz to enter the country and should allow journalists to report freely on matters of public interest, including protests, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today....
Editor of Morocco news website arrested on way to cover Rif protests
July 21, 2017 4:37 PM ET
New York, July 21, 2017--Moroccan authorities should immediately release Badil Editor-in-Chief Hamid al-Mahdaoui, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Police arrested al-Mahdaoui yesterday as he traveled to the Rif area of northern Morocco to cover protests, according to one of the journalist's colleagues and news reports....
New York, June 20, 2017--Moroccan authorities should cease harassing Hamid al-Mahdaoui, the editor of the news website Badil, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Moroccan Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit has filed a criminal defamation complaint against al-Mahdaoui, and the editor says he was questioned for six hours last...