IFJ International Campaign over Moroccan Assault on Press Freedom

The International Federation of Journalists today called on media unions throughout the world to support Moroccan journalists who have taken strike action in support of their colleague Mustapha Hurmatallah who has been imprisoned since July 17th.

The IFJ affiliate, the Syndicat national de la presse marocaine (SNPM), called on all its members to stop work for thirty minutes at 1 pm on Tuesday and urged those who can to converge on the courts in Casablanca where the trial of their colleague is to resume.

“This is a watershed moment for the right to know and the protection of journalists’ sources in Morocco,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “The IFJ, with over 600,000 journalists, is fully behind the action taken by the Moroccan colleagues. This is a crucial struggle in which all IFJ unions have a stake.”

Abderrahim Ariri, managing editor of the Arabic-language weekly Al Watan Al An and his reporter Mustapha Hurmatallah, were arrested in Casablanca on July 17th after their publication ran a feature entitled “The Secret Reports Behind the State of Alert in Morocco” quoting military intelligence documents.

The two journalists were first charged with publishing “reports of a confidential nature linked to defence secrets.” Later Ariri was freed provisionally while Hurmatallah was kept in prison pending the opening of the court proceedings adjourned to today. They are now both charged with "possessing stolen documents."

IFJ Vice President and General Secretary of the SNPM Younes M’Jahed said, “This case is looking more and more like a travesty of justice. Hurmatallah is now in his 22nd day in prison despite the efforts by his legal team to have the charges against him dismissed. He must be released at once. Moroccan journalists believe that the justice system is being used once again to gag journalists and this is why we would be taking action today.”

The Syndicate, which has been leading the campaign for the release of the two journalists, organised on July 24th a day of solidarity involving all its members throughout the country.

Journalists were further outraged by a decision on Saturday of the Moroccan government to confiscate last week’s issues of another Arabic-language weekly Nichane and the French-language weekly TelQuel for publishing an editorial and articles considered by the government as "disrespectful" of the King, against public morality, and offending Islam. Their editor Ahmed Benchemsi was held for questioning.

Early this year, two journalists from the same weekly Nichane, Driss Ksikes and Sanaa Al Aji, were given a three-year suspended sentence and a fine of €5,400 by a court in Casablanca for publishing an article on Moroccan jokes on Islam, sex and politics. Their magazine was banned for two months.

“The press in Morocco is now facing a dangerous impasse where the authorities are spinning out of control, seizing publications and imprisoning journalists using the flimsiest excuses,” added M’Jahed.

“The Moroccan political and judicial authorities have shown that their talk of democracy and commitment to a free press is sheer window-dressing and the latest arrests of journalist and attacks on press freedom are a serious setback for Moroccan journalism,” said Boumelha “The IFJ calls on them to revoke forthwith the confiscation of the two weeklies.”

For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide.