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Morocco: Shutting down Al Jazeera?

After a clash between protestors and police in Sidi Ifni lead to injuries and possible deaths, Al Jazeera issued a report at a news conference held by the Moroccan Human Rights Centre that several protestors had been killed. The Moroccan authorities, angered by the report, charged Al Jazeera's Rabat bureau chief with publishing false information on June 13.

Unfortunately, few news sources and few bloggers have spoken up about the issue. Notably, North Africa Notes, an expatriate blogger based in Morocco, had this to say:

I think it represents a larger issue than just being able to “say what you want to say,” and goes towards the ability of the average Moroccan to honestly evaluate their life and their government, and ask questions about accountability.

And ofcourse, Al-Jazeera is an easy scapegoat. They are the news agency every country who is doing things they would rather not want us to know about villifies.

Keep Hope Alive

Christine Benlafqih of Arabisto.com was displeased:

Perhaps all of this wouldn’t seem so spectacular except for the fact that last month, the Moroccan government blocked Al Jazeera from continuing its daily news broadcasts on the Maghreb countries. The program had been airing for well over a year, and the withdrawal of its broadcast frequency over “technical and legal problems” was unexpected and without clear explanation.

No wonder Reporters Without Borders jumped in last month to say something about it. Perhaps they’ll speak up again.

14 comments

  • Mark

    While opposing the actions of the Moroccan government I can’t help but note the incompetence of the Jazeera bureau chief.

  • Kamal

    I read Al-Jazeera’s report about the protests in Sidi Ifni; honestly speaking, it was totally unprofessional. The report was basically a he-said-she-said kind of story with no verifications or proofs whatsoever. Al-Jazeera presents reports to its viewers as being God’s truth taping into its “authority and reliability” in the Arab world. We do not know for sure whether people really died In Sidi Ifni or whether the report was just a make-believe story. In either case, I think the Moroccan government has a right to take Al-Jazeera to court (despite the fact that the Moroccan judicial system is not independent) so as to disclose and make public the channel’s sources, or else, chaos will prevail.

    However, as a Moroccan, I’m really very worried about press freedom in my country. Until recently, Morocco had been enjoying a reputation among Arab countries for its relatively free press; but the current crack down on newspapers and the persecutions of journalists makes one wonder what is left of press freedom in the developing country. Moreover, the Moroccan government is planning to pass a new law to reform the press, a measure considered by many analysts to be similar to those new terrorism laws which are believed to be abused by the government.

    In the absence of an independent judicial system and effective civil society institutions, journalists remain under the mercy of the government. A case in point is the editor of the daily “Al Al-Massae” (the evening) , Rachid Nini, who was sentenced to pay approximately 550,000 Euros in damages and a fine of about 11,000 Euros in a lawsuit brought by four judges because the editor questioned the integrity of the judicial system in his paper. Another blogger was sentenced to three years in prison just because he impersonated the king’s brother in the social networking website Facebook; however, because of international criticism, the blogger received a royal pardon, but the trauma of the event still persist among the Moroccan bloggers. These examples about the deterioration of the press freedom in Morocco are but a tip of the iceberg; if The Moroccan government chose to shut down Al-Jazeera’s bureau in the country in the wake of Sidi Ifni events (regardless of the truthfulness of the report), that would not be a surprise.

  • Jay

    Al Jazeera’s Bureau chief is facing possible jail time, for possibly exaggerating the severity of the Moroccan security forces response to a protest. I?m not and never been a fan of Al Jazeera. But the Moroccan interior ministry is going too far here. The Moroccan authorities could have scored major pointes with public opining in dealing with this situation. They could of just fined, or made Al Jazeera spend air time correcting their mistake, instead they went for the over kill.

  • latifa

    is anyonoe in morocco surprised of what hapend in sidi ifni? this is not about al jazeera!this a regime that being killing and torturing moroccans for decades…and the sad thing is that hapening with the blessing of the west!!

  • David James Vickery

    Thank you all for your comments.

    I too am curious to know the reality of what happened in Sidi Ifni and of the general political climate in Morocco, even though I am a Canadian. I am close to the age of 65, will soon have my pension, and I want to leave Canada to live in some Muslim country and learn about the real Islam.
    Do you think I could possibly live in Morocco, considering the high levels of poverty and unemployment there?

    Thanks,
    David/Daoud

  • David James Vickery

    After more thinking, I would also like to know the extent of the U.S. and Israeli involvement in the economy of Morocco and how the people feel about it.

    Please and thank you!

    David/Daoud

  • Elmahdi Oummih

    Morocco is a country where the Press enjoys a great deal of Freedom. The Editor and the Bureau Chief in Morocco are to blame for their own predicament. They ignored the Laws in Morocco and allowed a news story to come to press that was not journalistically sound. If you are going to Print or air a story, it must be true. The only defence to Libel is the truth. If you cannot prove what you are saying is the truth, then you must be ready to face the consequences.

    The Interior Ministry is only doing its Job. They are trying to protect the National Security Interests of the Country. If they allow Media outlets to print outrageous lies without any repreccussions, it could spark anarchy.

    I wholeheartedly support Freedom of Speech. However, with great Power comes Great Responsibility. AL Jazeera has the power to touch millions. They must use their considerable power and influence responsibly within the frame work of existing Laws.

  • latifa

    dear david james. islam is a beautiful rilegion and morocco is a lovely place if you choose to retire there. however the political situation in morocco is that of an oppresive regime not much toward you being a canadian but towards my follows moroccans!you ll be trait it like a celebrity!! but in terms of freedom of speech only innocent political prisoners or people who disapperd from their home can answer 2 that..but my opinion is that you can live in morocco safe if you mind your bissness.thankyou.

  • David James Vickery

    Thank you for your good advice Latifa!

    I’m thinking that Tanger would be beautiful at this time of the year and maybe Marrakesh in winter time or maybe further south.

    But still the political situation worries me and probably the people have good reason to protest about lack of jobs, especially the young men. At the same time I see that many people are trying to leave from Morocco and other African countries and find their way to Europe. This is a very bad situation that cannot be solved by government oppression.

    David/Daoud

  • Jay

    David

    Out of all Muslim / Arab countries Morocco is great place to live. Yes there are speech restrictions when it comes to the monarchy and the Sahara issue. But the government is doing what it has to do to keep the country stable. The country is headed in the right direction minus a few bumps along the way like this Al Jazeera issue. Look into Rabat (The capital) It’s very safe,and relatively clean.

    Good luck.

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