Freedom of the Press in Morocco : Stereotypes Sweep away Achievements

Saeed Ben Jabali
31/10/2009
Reports of international organizations interested in freedom of expression are parading to the media scene in Morocco, mourning the good times when the country witnessed an atmosphere of relative openness on freedom of expression and the press.
Because of unfair decisions and harsh sentences that were issued against media workers and media institutions recently, Morocco lost five points in Reporters Without Borders Rating and other reports ranked Morocco among ten other countries experiencing a setback for freedom of expression.
Some organizations  have also decided to write to  Hillary Clinton to urge  Moroccan authorities to respect freedom of speech during her visit to Morocco.
The government  could not find any justification to the reports and observations but invoked the tactful  spokesman and communications minister Khalid Naciri, who has repeatedly, and as usual,  attacked the international reports accusing them of bias and defended  the  government decisions  in such a barefaced manner similar to that of the minister Al-Sahaf’s  in Saddam Hussein's regime according to some bloggers.
Driss Shehtan  being arrested from his office  is an  inflection point in the  Moroccan authority  way to  Freedoms, on which it has been going ahead.
The trial of “AlMichaal” editor and his colleagues “Mustafa Hiran” and “Rashid Mahameed” due to articles discussing the illness of King Mohammed VI had witnessed serious violations that led to  the withdrawal of the defense  ,  reporting  an abusive trial that lacked the minimum of justice and violated the rights of the accused,  causing Shehtan to lose 10 kg after detention incommunicado.
But what “Akhbar AlYoum” daily newspaper is no less horrible .After three days of publishing a cartoon which the authority considered an insult to the Prince and to the national flag. The newspaper office was closed ,all  property  seized and workers dismissed  without legal basis.
However , the columnist Ali Anozla  will be waiting for the moment of his arrest together with his wife though he received a one year probation . His colleague Bushra Daow received  three months probation.
While serving a one year term,  Driss Shehtan received a heavy fine and another sentence to prison for orchestrating aunts of the king.
In July 2009, the Moroccan interior ministry,  destroyed 100000  copies of the magazine "Nichane" and its French sister because of an opinion poll on the performance of the Moroccan King in ten years of his reign.This comes after the unprecedented  verdict against "AlMassa" daily  to fine it 620 million centimes in favour of  four judges  two years ago Also it is to be mentioned , the sentence in favour of Gaddafi against three independent newspapers, "Al Ahdath AlMaghribia" ," AlMassa " and "AlJareeda AlOula" with a fine 100 thousand dollars due  publishing articles critical of the Libyan leader.
Note: As  I edited this article I learnt the  news of Tawfiq Bouachrine editor of “Akbar AlYoum”  and Khalid Kadar the cartoonist each receiving a one year probation  and a fine of 10000 dirhams for both. In addition to the evacuation of the newspaper premises. In a  second case with the same charges , each received 3 years probation and a fine of 300 million dirhams for both.