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IFJ Condemns "Injustice" as Journalists are Jailed in Morocco

October 16, 2009

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the jailing of two journalists and their boss by a court in Morocco accusing the authorities of "gross injustice."

The IFJ joined its affiliate, the Syndicat national de la presse marocaine (SNPM), in condemning vigorously the jailing yesterday by a Rabat tribunal of Driss Chahtane, managing director of Al Michaal newspaper and sentences against his reporters, Rachid Mahamid and Mustapha Hayrane.

According to SNPM, Chahtane was arrested by the police in his office and taken to prison immediately after the judge had pronounced the one-year sentence. Mahamid and Hayrane were given a three-month jail sentence. All three were convicted under clause 42 and 68 of the press code, following the publication of a story on the health of the country's monarch on 3 September.

"Even by Moroccan standards, this is a gross injustice and a flagrant abuse of the legal process, "said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "These journalists have committed no crime but they were tried and sentenced without being given the opportunity to defend themselves. They must be freed and the sentences and fines struck off."

Reports say the lawsuit against Al Michaal newspaper followed the publication of an article entitled "Al Michaal unveils the reasons behind the palace's statement about the king's illness, which has aroused public concern".

The public prosecutor announced a police investigation of Al Michaal and another Arabic-language news weekly, Al Ayam, on the grounds of spreading "lies and false information."

The trial of another newspaper, Al Jarida Al Oula, being prosecuted for publishing "false information" about the king's health which began on September 29, is due to resume on 21 October.

In a third trial of newspapers in less than 15 days, Taoufik Bouachrine and Khalid Guedda, respectively editor and cartoonist at Akhbar al Youm, Morocco's second largest Arabic language daily appeared before a court in Ain Sebaa, near Casablanca, on Monday at the instigation of the Ministry of the Interior. The newspaper was closed without any court decision.

"These journalists are engaged in publishing information which is of huge public interest, yet the authorities have decided to hunt them down like common criminals. The current trials of journalists and the closure of a newspaper have put into question the very future of democracy," added Boumelha.

For more information contact:
International Federation of Journalists
Phone: 32 2 235 2207

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