Despite outward progress, Morocco has faced a number of setbacks for press freedom over the past few years. Most recently, it was reported that Ali Anouzla and Jamal Boudouma, managing editor and publishing director of Moroccan newspaper Al-Jarida Al-Oula (الجريدة الأولى) have each received two-month suspended sentences and fines of MAD 200,000 (approximately USD$23,800) for “defamation” and “insulting the judiciary.” Anouzla stated that his lawyer will appeal the ruling as soon as a copy of the decision has been received.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ):
The lawsuit, the second in less than three months in regard to the same article, was filed by Khalil Hachemi Idrissi, publishing director of the daily French-language newspaper Aujourd'hui Le Maroc in January. Idrissi filed a previous lawsuit against Anouzla in September 2008, after the newspaper reported on an incident in which Hassan al-Yaqoubi, the spouse of King Muhammad VI's aunt had shot and injured a traffic policeman who had stopped him.
“We urge the court of appeals to overturn this unjust ruling,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayam, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “This fine and another that was issued in January smack of political score-settling and are likely to bring down the newspaper if upheld by the court of appeals.”
Idrissi wrote a piece in Aujourd'hui Le Maroc calling the newspapers that covered the incident unpatriotic and said they lacked journalistic ethics. Al-Jarida al-Oula was the only newspaper that wrote about the incident at the time, Anouzla told CPJ.
Moroccan author Laila Lalami blogged about the story today, clearly stating her disagreement with the court's decision:
So let me see if I get this straight: One prominent journalist sues another for defamation and wins. (And it just so happens that the latter was critical of the regime’s handling of the al-Yacoubi case.) The censorship machine is so well-oiled nowadays that the Moroccan government doesn’t need to do anything.
Will of the blog One Hump or Two? hopes that the testimony somehow reaches publication:
I hope Al-Jarida Al-Oula, if it decides the risk of continuing to publish the testimony isn't worth it, is able to give or sell the documents to a foreign paper (I think Spain would be best). That's not an ideal solution, though, because it makes the information more difficult for Moroccans to reach.