CJFE calls on Moroccan government to end the politicised judicial harassment of journalists

Monday, June 28, 2010
Sixty-eight human rights organisations and civil society groups issued the following joint statement to the Moroccan government on June 28 2010, calling for an end to the politicised judicial harassment of journalists: We, the undersigned 68 human rights and press freedom organisations, express our deepest concern about recent cases of politically-motivated attacks against Moroccan journalists for their critical reporting. We are alarmed at the targeting of independent journalists by the authorities, particularly the cases of Taoufik Bouachrine, managing editor of the daily "Akhbar Al-Youm" and Ali Amar, former managing editor of the suspended weekly "Le Journal Hebdomadaire". On 10 June 2010, Bouachrine was sentenced to six months in prison on criminal charges of real estate fraud. The case involved a civil dispute over the sale of a house purchased by Bouachrine three years ago that was already twice adjudicated in favor of the journalist. We object to the case being reopened as a criminal case, after it was already resolved under civil law. We believe the criminal charges brought against Bouachrine are politically-motivated, stemming from the journalist's critical journalism and advocacy for press freedom. In 2009, the editor received a four-year suspended sentence and was fined 270,000 euros for publishing a cartoon judged offensive to the royal family. His newspaper was also arbitrarily shut down by authorities following publication of the cartoon in September 2009, but was re-launched under a different name in December of that year. We also draw attention to an alarming instance of police brutality in the case of Ali Amar, who has experienced harassment at the hands of the authorities since he published a book that was critical of the King, "Mohammed VI: The Great Misunderstanding " in April 2009. On June 4, security agents stormed the home of journalist Zainab El Ghazwi, with whom Amar was staying, on allegations that he had stolen a laptop, following a complaint filed by a former employee of "Le Journal Hebdomadaire". The officers searched the home without seeking El Ghazwi's permission, as required under law, subjected the two to a humiliating line of questioning about their personal lives and about their writings, and then detained the two journalists for 12 hours. Amar was re-arrested on June 7, and held for 24 hours; he now faces aggravated robbery charges. He is due on court on June 29. And, while we welcome the release on June 11 2010, of Driss Chahtan, editor of the independent weekly "Al-Michaal", we believe he should never have been jailed in October 2009 for publishing articles about the King's health. We call attention to the escalating trend in Morocco to punish and discredit critical journalists for their writing and activism, which creates a climate of fear and silences independent journalism. We urge the Moroccan government not to follow the path of its neighbour Tunisia, which uses the courts to unjustly persecute critical journalists. Furthermore, we call for journalists to be fairly treated under the law, according to Morocco's international obligations as a signatory of international conventions on freedom of expression, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in addition to the provisions of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Finally, the undersigned organisations appeal to His Majesty King Mohammed VI, on the 11th anniversary of his coronation next month, to intervene to stop what even the Moroccan Minister of Communications, Khalid Naciri, called "a heavy-handed campaign" against journalists, according to April 2010, media reports. Signed, For more information: Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo Rua Jesuíno Arruda, 797, 10º andar São Paulo, SP 04532 082 Brasil abraji (@) abraji.org.br Phone: +55 11 28510699 Fax: +55 11 35122105 Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo http://www.abraji.org.br/ Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech Arabic Network for Human Rights Information ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression Association of Independent Electronic Media Bahrain Center for Human Rights Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility Center for Media Studies & Peace Building Committee to Protect Journalists Ethiopian Freepress Journalists' Association Foundation for Press Freedom Freedom House Globe International Independent Journalism Center Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety Institute of Mass Information International Federation of Journalists International PEN Writers in Prison Committee International Press Institute Maharat Foundation (Skills Foundation) Media Institute of Southern Africa Media Watch Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de création Pacific Freedom Forum Pakistan Press Foundation West African Journalists Association World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers World Press Freedom Committee Non-IFEX member signatories: Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies Arab World Center for Development and Human Rights Arab Commission for Human Rights Arab Foundation for Support Of Civil Society And Human Rights Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression Association For Human Rights Legal Aid Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance Center for Human Rights and Democratic Participation (SHAMS) Civil Observatory for Human Rights Committee for the Defense of Democracy Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement Egyptian Center for Development and Human Rights Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights Egyptian Center for Human Rights Egyptian Center for Women's Rights Egyptian Democratic Institute Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Egyptian Journalists League Habi Center for Environmental Rights Hisham Mubarak Law Center Hoquqi Association for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities International Bureau for Humanitarians International Coalition against War Criminals Land Center for Human Rights Nadeem Center for Psychological Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence National Organization for Human Rights New Woman Foundation Palestinian Association for Human Rights (Monitor) Reporters Without Rights SADA for Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the Arab World Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights Syrian Center for the Assistance of Prisoners Syrian Committee for Defending Journalists Syrian Human Rights League Technological Centre for Human Rights Union Center for Development and Human Rights Voice of Law Centre Young Organizations Network

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