The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has renewed its call for the release of director Abderrahim Ariri and reporter Mustapha Hurmatallah of the Moroccan publication Al Watan Al An who was arrested in Casablanca last week. The IFJ earlier appealed for the two men to go free while investigations continue, but their detention was extended for a further 96 hours by the Casablanca prosecutor on Saturday.
“It is clear to us that these journalists were performing their role of informing the public in reporting a story of public interest and depriving them of their liberty can only overshadow plans by Moroccan government to reform press freedom laws”, said Jim Boumelha, IFJ president, in a letter of protest sent today to Moroccan Communications minister Mr. Nabil Benabdallah, minister of the Interior Mr. Chakib Benmoussa and minister of Justice Mr. Mohammad Bouzoubaa.
“It is widely accepted that journalistic investigations which are most necessary to the functioning of democracy include precisely those likely to involve, among many things, the security of the state”, he added.
The Syndicat National de la Presse Marocaine (SNPM) which leads the campaign to reform the national press law is especially concerned by this case which illustrates continuing problems over access to official information. “We deeply regret the amplification of this affair and its linking with other issues regarding leakage of military documents,” added Younes M’jahed, General Secretary of the SNPM and IFJ Vice-President.
The SNPM has announced a solidarity day with the two journalists tomorrow. Apprehended a week ago, Ariri and Hurmatallah have since been kept for questioning by police after the publication at the weekend of a report entitled "The Secret Reports Behind the State of Alert in Morocco " which contained elements of classified information about terrorist threats.
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