The Moroccan government continued its practice of targeting journalists and news outlets in connection with their critical coverage of taboo subjects, such as the health of the king or the royal family. One editor of an investigative weekly was convicted of defamation in relation to an article he wrote that said a government minister had drunk alcohol. The editor was fined and handed a two-month suspended prison sentence. Another editor was charged with promoting terrorism under the country's 2003 anti-terrorism law for publishing a link to a video of an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group. After an international outcry by more than 60 free-expression organizations, the editor was released on bail, but he still faces charges. In its annual census conducted on December 1, CPJ documented one journalist behind bars, a decrease from previous years.
At least one journalist was behind bars in Morocco when CPJ conducted its annual prison census on December 1. Mohamed Sokrate, a prominent blogger who had been critical of the monarchy, was arrested in May 2012 and sentenced to two years in prison on charges of drug possession and trafficking, according to reports.
Ali Anouzla, editor of the news website Lakome, was arrested on September 17 and held for more than a month in connection with a news article posted on Lakome in July.
The article referred to a story by the leading Spanish daily El País, which included a direct link to a YouTube video purportedly posted by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a North African branch of the extremist group. The video criticized Morocco's King Mohamed VI.
Anouzla faced trial for "advocacy of acts amounting to terrorism offenses" and "providing assistance to perpetrators or accomplices of acts of terrorism," according to reports. If convicted, he faced six to 20 years in jail.
On November 20, Anouzla wrote to CPJ, saying he had been released. His trial was continuing in late 2013.
Youssef Jajili, editor-in-chief of investigative weekly Alaan Magazine, was handed fines and a two-month suspended prison sentence in June in connection with a criminal defamation conviction.
Jajili had reported that Abdelkader Amara, minister of manufacture and trade in the current Islamic government, had ordered champagne to his hotel room while on a taxpayer-funded trip outside the country. The official disputed the account. The allegation was embarrassing to the minister because Islam forbids Muslims from drinking alcohol.
Amara denied the accusation and accused Jajili of fabricating the story, news reports said. After Jajili published the hotel bill showing the charges under the official's name, Amara claimed he was not in his room when the charges were incurred, the reports said.
Jajili was charged under the Moroccan Press Law, under which journalists face up to one year in jail and harsh fines if convicted of defamation.
Authorities have used defamation charges to silence independent journalists in the past, CPJ research shows. From 2009 to 2011, several newspapers were targeted in politicized criminal proceedings for criticizing the government or for their coverage of taboo subjects such as the health of the king or the royal family, CPJ research shows.
Morocco is ranked eighth in Internet use among the countries in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the International Telecommunication Union.