Prominent Moroccan publisher resigns in bid to save weekly
January 18, 2007 12:00 PM ET
New York, January 18, 2007—The publisher of Morocco’s independent weekly Le Journal Hebdomadaire resigned today in a move designed to shield the magazine from the record damages he was ordered to pay last year in a controversial defamation suit.
Aboubakr Jamaï, publisher of the groundbreaking weekly, announced at a press conference in Casablanca that he was stepping down to prevent Moroccan authorities from seizing the magazine’s assets. Jamaï told CPJ he will remove himself from the masthead starting this week.
“This is a sad day for Morocco, which is losing one of its best and most courageous journalists,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Aboubakr Jamaï, a leading force in independent journalism, has stood up to repeated government attempts to silence him.”
Jamaï’s announcement comes nine months after an appeals court upheld a February 2006 decision ordering Jamaï and former reporter Fahd al-Iraqi to pay 3 million dirhams (US$354,000) in damages to Claude Moniquet, head of the Brussels-based security think tank European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center. Moniquet claimed Le Journal Hebdomadaire defamed him and his institute when it published a six-page critique in December 2005 that questioned the independence of the center’s report on the disputed Western Sahara. The two journalists were also fined 100,000 dirhams (US$11,800) as part of the judgment, which observers criticized as politically motivated.
In recent weeks, court officials have visited Le Journal Hebdomadaire’s Casablanca office demanding payment of the damages and fines. Jamaï and al-Iraqi remain personally liable to pay the damages awarded to Moniquet. “I have no formal way of earning a wage in this country,” Jamaï told CPJ. “Any kind of revenue or property I acquire can be seized.”
Moroccan courts are widely seen as influenced by the government; the proceedings in this case fueled suspicions of a politically inspired judgment. Le JournalHebdomadaire declined to defend itself at trial and on appeal after it was barred from introducing expert witnesses who would have testified that Moniquet’s report closely reflected government positions on the Western Sahara dispute. The state prosecutor went on record in support of Moniquet’s original demand of 5 million dirhams, although the prosecution had no obligation to make any recommendation. The trial court provided no explanation for how it reached the unprecedented damage award, the second record-breaking amount levied against Jamaï for work in his publication. Moroccan state-run media have eagerly covered the lawsuit, condemning the publication and highlighting the claims of the plaintiff.
A judgment in a similar 2002 case led Jamaï to conclude that he now needed to sever his relationship with the magazine in order to protect it. In that 2002 case, court officials moved aggressively to seize the magazine’s assets before Jamaï was able to pay the judgment.
Jamaï, a former CPJ International Press Freedom Award recipient, has seen both Le Journal Hebdomadaire and its sister publication, Assahifa al-Ousbouiya, repeatedly harassed by the government for their reporting on corruption, corporate impropriety, and taboo political topics. The papers have been criminally prosecuted, banned, and targeted financially through government advertising boycotts.
In February, just days before the Moniquet verdict, Moroccan authorities orchestrated protests against the magazine. The “demonstrators,” some of whom later acknowledged that they were recruited by the government, protested publication of an Agence France-Presse photograph showing a reader holding the edition of the Paris daily France Soir that reproduced Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Le Journal Hebdomadaire ran the photograph as part of a 10-page chronology of events that followed publication of the controversial drawings in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
Moroccan court sentences two journalists to several years in prison
July 3, 2018 4:49 PM ET
New York, July 3, 2018--Moroccan authorities should immediately release journalists Mohamed al-Asrihi and Hamid al-Mahdaoui and drop all charges against them, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The Casablanca Court of Appeals sentenced al-Asrihi on June 26 to five years in prison and a fine of 2,000 Moroccan...
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....