Press freedom reports

The 2007 annual World Press Freedom Review by the International Press Institute states “Politically motivated prosecutions of independent newspapers are severely limiting press freedom in Morocco. The courts have imposed suspended prison sentences and exorbitant fines on the editors of five major weekly newspapers this year. Each of these publications is known for their critical coverage of political affairs and the actions taken against them demonstrate a blatant attempt to stifle opposition voices. Suspended sentences have a chilling effect on the press by threatening journalists if they cover sensitive issues in the future. As a result, suspended sentences promote an unhealthy culture of self-censorship. Exorbitant fines by the courts are also levied to compromise the financial viability of independent publications.” Reporters Without Borders characterizes the press situation in Morocco as a “difficult situation.” In the 2006 Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index Morocco ranked 97th. The annual report states that “The hopes raised when Mohamed VI became king in 1999 have slowly disappeared and the country’s journalists face prosecution that severely affects their work, even though taboo subjects are now fewer. The future of Western Sahara is more openly discussed, and the rise of Islamism and (...) past human rights violations by the authorities frequently make headlines. The boldest journalists investigate the role of the king and the royal family in running the country but this is the main reason journalists are prosecuted. The press law has a score of offences carrying prison sentences and journalists often have to pay very heavy fines and damages for offending the king, the monarchy, the nation, territorial integrity, God or Islam. Apart from the release on 29 January 2006 of editor Anas Tadili, of the weekly Akhbar al-Ousbouaa, after 22 months in prison, press freedom had a very bad year. In 2007 the government run several processes against weekly’s and journalists for writing too critically on taboo subjects like the Western Sahara, the Islam and the monarchy. Several journalists were banned from working and had to pay fines, weekly magazine Nichane was forbidden. The Committee to Protect Journalists has designated Morocco as one of the world’s worst backsliders on press freedom this year, arguing that “Morocco joins Tunisia as Arab world’s leading jailer of journalists, with three sentenced to prison terms. Authorities banish three top journalists through politically motivated lawsuits. State media and government incite protests against independent press.”