International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins today its affiliate the
Syndicat national de la presse marocaine (SNPM) in condemning the Moroccan
government's campaign to muzzle critical journalists.
Last week, the campaign took a turn for the worse when the offices of the daily Akhbar al Youm, were cordoned off by the police and staff and management prevented from entering their offices in Casablanca. Editor Tawfiq Bouachrine and cartoonist Khaled Kadar were interrogated for 48 hours following the publication of a cartoon depicting the wedding of a member of the royal family, prince Moulay Ismail.
The SNPM, an IFJ affiliate, organised a demonstration last Friday to break the cordon and held a rally outside the newspaper. Its President, Younes M'Jahed, said "The siege of Akhbar al-Youm is a flagrant violation of the current Press Law and smacks of authoritarianism. The Ministry of the Interior has no legal authority to order such a closure."
The campaign by the authorities has been steadily escalating. Several journalists have been under investigation by the judicial police in Rabat following the publication of articles quoting medical sources on the health of the court. Ali Anouzla, editor of the daily al Jareeda al Oula, and journalist Bochra Daou were charged for "intentionally publishing false information" as well as the editor of the weekly Al Michaal Driss Chahtan and journalists Mostafa Hiran and Rashid Mahameed.
Al-Jarida al-Oula, Al Ahdath al Maghribia and Al Massae have already been taken to a Casablanca court by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi after they published articles which criticised him in 2008 and early 2009 and ordered to pay a fine of 100,000 dirhams (8779 EUR) and damages of 1 million dirhams (87791 EUR).
"This is an unprecedented onslaught by the Moroccan authorities seeking to silence independent journalists." said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "Their action have put Morocco in the forefront of the enemies of press freedom that harass, torment and prosecute journalists. The use of the courts and the excessive fines have one aim only, to gag journalists."
For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide