Morocco should allow Al-Jazeera to resume Rabat broadcast

New York, May 7, 2008—Moroccan authorities should immediately reverse this week’s decision to prevent Al-Jazeera from broadcasting its evening roundup of regional news and views from Rabat, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On Tuesday, the Moroccan National Agency for Telecom Technical Regulation notified Al-Jazeera that the frequency it had used for the Rabat-based program was being withdrawn because of “technical and legal problems.” Al-Jazeera quoted the letter as saying that “all terrestrial and satellite broadcasting authorizations have been cancelled” until further notice.

The decision forced Al-Jazeera to begin broadcasting the regional roundup from its headquarters in Doha, Qatar. The daily program features news and commentary about Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

The move came less than a week after the network broadcast a weekly talk show in which Hassanein Heykal, a veteran Egyptian journalist and former presidential adviser, made comments about the late King Hassan II of Morocco. During the May 1 show, Heykal said that Hassan once suggested that Israeli support for Moroccan independence would be more helpful than that of the Arab nations.

“This sudden decision without any semblance of due process is of great concern,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We urge Moroccan authorities to allow Al-Jazeera to broadcast from Rabat without interference.”

In a special report released in July 2007, CPJ noted that press freedom in Morocco has notably regressed in recent years. Independent journalists have been targeted in a series of politicized court cases.