Morocco November 10, 2009

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H.M. King Mohamed VI
c/o Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco
1601 Twenty First Street, NW‎
Washington, DC 20009‎‎
Fax: (202) 265.0161

Your Majesty:

Along with a great number of other human rights organizations and freedom of the press advocates, we of the Overseas Press Club of America are dismayed to see the escalating efforts of your government to suppress and intimidate the Moroccan press. These efforts are particularly disappointing since Morocco has been seen as a country where there was some space for freedom of expression.

In the last three weeks, we have been reminded of the growing suppression of the press in Morocco in at least three cases:

The editor of Al Michaal, Driss Chahtan, was sentenced to a year in jail for publishing information about Your Majesty’s health and immediately started to serve his sentence. Two of his editors were sentenced to three months imprisonment but are for the moment free. Ali Anouzla, editor of Al Jarida Al Oula, was sentenced to a year in jail for publishing information about Your Majesty’s health. His sentence was suspended. Another journalist on the same paper received a three-month suspended sentence. Publisher, Taoufik Bouachrine, and cartoonist, Khalid Gueddar of Akhbar al Youm received deferred three- year sentences because the daily published a cartoon about the wedding of a relative of Your Majesty.

In addition to these recent efforts to suppress the free press, Your Majesty’s government has banned issues of foreign newspapers, destroyed issues of a Moroccan magazine, and blockaded the offices of another Moroccan publication. These actions were usually undertaken without a clear legal basis or proper court orders.

A common factor in most of these cases is that journalists dared to raise questions about Your Majesty’s health. Is that really a justification for accusing the journalists of “criminal defamation”?

Freedom of the press, which we believe Your Majesty’s government has endorsed, means in particular, the freedom to question those in power. Without that freedom, then the people cannot know what their rulers are doing. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right which, until lately, seemed to be gaining ground in Morocco. We urge Your Majesty to allow Moroccan journalists to report freely, even if what they say displeases you.

Respectfully yours,
Jeremy Main
Kevin McDermott
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

H.E. Abbas Al-Fassi
Prime Minister
c/o Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco
1601 Twenty First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009

H.E. Khalid Nazim
Minister of Communications and Government Spokesman
c/o Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco
1601 Twenty First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009 ‎

H.E. Aziz Mekouar
Ambassador of Morocco to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco ‎
1601 Twenty First Street, NW‎
Washington, DC 20009‎‎ 
Fax: (‎202) 265.0161

Ambassador Ahmed Snoussi
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations
866 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 980.1512  

H.E. Samuel B. Kaplan
U.S. Ambassador to Morocco
Embassy of the United States of America
2 Avenue de Mohamed El Fassi
Rabat
Morocco

Zakaria Rmidi
Morocco Times
zakaria.rmidi@gmail.com

Mr. Said Essoulami
Centre for Media Freedom
Résidence les Jardins, Escalier B, 3ème Etage
Maarif, Casablanca
Morocco

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