Moroccan court tells paper to halt publication of testimony

New York, June 25, 2008–The Moroccan government should allow the news media to report on human rights abuses committed during the reign of King Hassan II, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today after a court ordered an independent newspaper to stop publishing victim testimony given to a royal truth and reconciliation commission.

Ali Anouzla, editor of Al-Jarida al-Oula, a newly established daily, was ordered to stop publishing statements made to the Equity and Reconciliation Commission describing human rights abuses said to have occurred between 1960 and 1999. Anouzla told CPJ that the newspaper will appeal the ruling

A Rabat court issued the order last week in response to a complaint by Ahmed Herzenni, head of the state-run Consultative Council for Human Rights. The council is in charge of the archives of the now-dissolved truth and reconciliation commission. The commission was established in 2003 up by King Mohamed to turn the page on his father’s lengthy and ruthless rule.

“This purpose of the commission was to turn the page on Morocco’s repressive legacy by making allegations of human rights violations public. It defies logic that the court would now suppress such coverage,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.  

The court based its ruling on a recent law protecting national archives, although specific implementation decrees have not been issued. Despite the court order, Al-Jarida al-Oula has continued to publish excerpts from statements about torture, murders and disappearances perpetrated during what Moroccans often refer to as the “Years of Lead.”

“We are determined to carry on publishing the testimony to help protect Moroccan’s basic right to know,” Amouzla said. CPJ documented the lack of independent in Morocco’s judiciary in a 2007 special report, The Moroccan Façade .