September 4, 2009--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Moroccan
authorities to end an investigation of two journalists who have already been
interrogated for 40 hours over an article about the health of the king.
Authorities have repeatedly pressed them to reveal their sources, according to
Editor Ali Anouzla and journalist Bochra Daou of the
independent daily Al-Jarida al-Oula were detained on Tuesday
and released Thursday night, the journalists' lawyer, Hassan
Semlali, told CPJ. Semlali said the Rabat Prosecution Office accused
them of publishing false news about King Mohammed VI's health in an August 27
article that reported he was ill with a virus.
"This is over-the-top harassment--reporting on the health of
the king is legitimate news and does not warrant such treatment," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "We call on the Rabat
Prosecution Office to immediately end this investigation."
Anouzla told CPJ that in the course of three days the two
underwent five interrogation sessions in which they were asked why they published
the story. "They wanted to know whether there were any political reasons for the
article and wanted to obtain the identity of the medical sources," Anouzla said. He said that they refused to reveal their sources.
Authorities have prosecuted Al-Jarida Al-Oula before. On June 29, court in
Casablanca ordered the newspaper along with two other papers to pay a fine of
100,000 dirhams (US$12,484) and damages of 1 million dirhams (US$125,213) to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi after they published
articles critical of the leader in 2008 and early 2009, CPJ research shows.
In late July, CPJ sent
a letter to King Mohammed VI expressing disappointment with the continued use of
the courts to suppress freedom of expression and impose excessive fines on
critical journalists in Morocco.