Middle East and North Africa cases 2003: Country List    I   Middle East and North Africa Regional Home Page
How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

MARCH 13, 2003

Maria Mokrim, Al-Ayyam

Mokrim, a reporter with the independent weekly Al-Ayyam, told CPJ that she received a threatening phone call on her cell phone while she was in a taxi leaving Al-Ayyam's offices in Casablanca. When Mokrim demanded to know who the caller was, he said he was "one of the people that you dared insult." She said that the caller accused her of being a traitor and said he was a "defender of the king." The caller told her that he could see her in the taxi and warned her that she might get in an "accident."

When Mokrim exited the taxi, a young man approached her and hit her on the shoulder with a large stick. Mokrim said the blow did not injure her seriously. When she entered another taxi, the caller who had threatened her phoned again and asked if she had learned her lesson. She said she received a call the following day.

The attack and threat occurred after she had written an article in January about the Moroccan Secret Service.

MARCH 30, 2003


State-owned Moroccan public television (TVM) barred Al-Jazeera from using its facilities to feed broadcasts to the station's headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

Al-Jazeera's correspondent in Morocco, Iqbal Ilhami, told CPJ that she and her crew had completed a report on demonstrations in the capital, Rabat, opposing the U.S.-led war in Iraq and went to TVM's facilities to feed the tape to Doha. Ilhami said that when she arrived at TVM, she was told that there were orders not to allow Al-Jazeera to use the facilities. Ilhami was not told who gave these orders or why they were given.

Ilhami contacted Moroccan Communications Minister Nabil Bin Abdallah, who, she said, told her that Al-Jazeera should refrain from transmitting reports that endangered the general security of Morocco. Boushra Bourara, a spokeswoman at the Communications Ministry, told CPJ that the decision not to allow Al-Jazeera to use TVM's facilities had nothing to do with the station's report on the Rabat demonstrations. Bourara said that Al-Jazeera was not allowed to use the facilities because the station had aired two erroneous reports in the weeks since the war began, a violation of its agreement with TVM.

APRIL 11, 2003

Mohamed Benouna, Douman

Benouna, a reporter for Douman, was physically assaulted by a group of unidentified men in Settat, a town about 65 miles south of Casablanca, according to Douman director Ali Lmrabet. Lmrabet said that Benouna had written an article published in Douman's April 9 edition reporting that the governor of Settat Province had granted a concession for the sale of alcohol to André Azoulay, the royal adviser for economic and financial affairs. The assailants beat Benouna and stripped him of his pants, telling him never to write about the governor again.

AUGUST 4, 2003

Mohammed al-Herd, Al-Sharq
Abdel Majid Ben Taher, Al-Sharq
Mustapha Qashnini, Al-Hayat al-Maghribiya
Al-Hayat al-Maghribiya

Editors al-Herd and Ben Taher, of the weekly newspaper Al-Sharq, and Qashnini, editor of the weekly Al-Hayat al-Maghribiya, were convicted by a Rabat court of "extolling the actions that comprise terrorism," according to their lawyer, Mohammed Ziyyan.

Ziyyan told CPJ that al-Herd was sentenced to three years in prison, while Ben Taher and Qashnini, who were released in July pending trial, were each sentenced to one year in prison. Ben Taher and Qashnini remain free pending appeal, but al-Herd began serving his sentence immediately. The court also suspended both weeklies from publication for three months.

The journalists were originally detained on June 12 under Morocco's new antiterrorism law, which was passed soon after the May 16 terrorist attacks in Casablanca that killed 44 people. The charges against the journalists stem from an article by an Islamic activist named Zakariya Boughrara that appeared in the May 5- 20 issue of Al-Hayat al-Maghribiya and was reprinted on June 5 in Al-Sharq. In the article, Boughrara discussed the history of the Islamist movement in Morocco and its relationship with the country's intelligence services. The article, which criticized the Moroccan intelligence services for doing the "dirty work" of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, was written before the May 16 suicide attacks in Casablanca. The Moroccan government blames the Islamist group Salafiyya Jihadia for the attacks, and Boughrara is a member of the group.

Ziyyan said that Boughrara and his brother Youssef were tried with the journalists and sentenced to 10 and five years in prison, respectively, after being convicted of accepting foreign funds to finance terrorist actions in Morocco. Ziyyan, who is filing an appeal, said that he tried unsuccessfully to have the journalists tried separately from the Boughrara brothers.

AUGUST 23, 2003
Posted: September 18, 2003

Hussein al-Majdoubi, Al-Quds Al-Arabi

Al-Majdoubi, a journalist writing for the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, was detained on August 23 after turning himself into a local police station in the northern Moroccan city of Tetouan. The previous day, police had gone to his home looking for him. Al-Majdoubi had been investigating and writing several articles about the drug trade between northern Morocco and Spain, in which several local officials, including judges, security officers, and military personnel, had been implicated and arrested. While questioning al-Majdoubi, the police told him that two men arrested in a drug bust said that al-Majdoubi had taken a US$1,000 bribe in exchange for spinning his stories in a certain way. The two men later recanted and said that they didn't know al-Majdoubi. They said that they had been pressured to make the statement by the Moroccan secret service (DST).

Al-Majdoubi was released on August 25, and on September 9, the presiding judge told the journalist that he was no longer needed in the investigation and that he was free to leave. Al-Majdoubi said that he thinks his reporting may have led to the arrest, which, he said, was an attempt to scare