The sudden move followed a statement from the Ministry of the Interior accusing the independent daily of “blatant disrespect to a member of the royal family” for publishing in its September 26-27 weekend edition a “cartoon on a strictly private wedding ceremony organized by the royal family.” Prince Moulay Ismail, the cousin of King Mohammed VI, was married in a ceremony that, though private, had generated considerable interest and coverage in local newspapers.
Police detained and interrogated Bouachrine and
cartoonist Khaled Kadar for more than 24 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday in
Lawyers told CPJ that the allegations against Akhbar al-Youm are groundless and that the Ministry of the Interior has no legal authority to shutter a newspaper unilaterally. Article 77 of the Moroccan Press Law goes only so far as to authorize the ministry to ban a single issue of a periodical deemed disrespectful to the royal family.
“We urge King Mohammed VI to order an immediate end to the arbitrary siege of Akhbar al-Youm and to immediately back the right of our colleagues to do their job without police or judicial harassment,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “The time has come for a regime that constantly pays lip service to democracy to turn the page on abusing the law to settle scores with critical journalists.”
Akhbar al-Youm intends to file suit against the interior minister on charges of abuse of power, according to a local news account. The National Syndicate of the Moroccan Press strongly denounced the closure of the independent daily and said that the government committed a “flagrant violation of Moroccan law,” local papers reported on Wednesday.
Administrative and judicial attacks on critical journalists have been reported throughout the year, drawing concern from even members of the press who are close to the government. On Tuesday, the daily Al-Ittihad al-Ishtiraki, owned by one of the country’s ruling political parties, complained about government pressure and argued that the era of Soviet-style journalism was over in Morocco.
same day, editor Ali Anouzla and reporter Bochra Daou of the independent daily al
Jarida al Oula were summoned by a misdemeanor court in
Editor Driss Chahtan and journalists
Mostafa Hiran and Rashid Mahameed of the independent weekly Al-Michaal
have also been summoned to appear before a misdemeanor court in
articles on the king’s health were published in the September 3-9 issue.
Chahtan and his colleagues also underwent lengthy interrogation by the judicial
Authorities have prosecuted Al-Jarida al-Oula before. On June 29, a 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) each to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi after they published articles critical of the leader in 2008 and early 2009, CPJ research shows. Anouzla appealed the court decision.
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