Morocco: From Censorship to Seizure


The cartoon has been making its way around the blogosphere

The Moroccan Interior Ministry has decided to sue Arabic-language daily paper Akhbar Al Youm for publishing a cartoon lampooning the newly wedded Prince Moulay Ismail.  In a statement, the Ministry called the cartoon a “blatant disrespect to a member of the royal family.”  The statement also called out the specific use of the Star of David in the cartoon, stating that it “raises many questions on the insinuations of the people behind it and suggests flagrant anti-Semitic penchants.”

Blogger Analitikis thinks Morocco has lost its sense of humor, but takes issue with the journalist, who claimed that the star was intended to be the five-pointed one of the Moroccan flag, saying:

The whole episode was of course a golden opportunity for the Ministry of the Interior to ban one of the very few independent newspapers in the country…While I do support the journalist’s freedom of expression I do question his recent statement in which he declared that the star was mistaken for a star of David when it’s really just a good old Moroccan one. I, thus, decided to use the very limited Photoshop skills to test the the truthfulness of his testimony… You be the judge

The blogger then attempts to recreate a five-pointed star, proving it impossible…

Blogger Analitikis show's the star's true points

Blogger Analitikis shows the star's true points

…and concluding: “I wonder if the German origin of the Prince’s wife have anything to do with this story…”

A Moroccan About the World Around Him analyzes the situation, saying:

The Moroccan government has grown increasingly sensitive to the country’s independent media as they broached subjects considered verboten. Its judicial and political cannonade of independent journalists and artists, and the newspapers and magazines they work for belies its averment it advocates and protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Some observers pointed out that the government stands as the backstage instigator of the ad hominem bickering plaguing the independent media these days.

Knowing the story behind the rift between Bouachrine and Nini of Al Masae, the latter is going to have a field day with this one.

Entre Nous Marocains has written a very detailed post assessing the situation, including two videos in his post.  The blogger concludes:

Durant deux mois, la censure de Telquel, Nichane, Le Monde et les interrogatoires de plusieurs journalistes (Al Ayam, Al Michaal, Al Jarida Al Oula) mais le meilleur pour la fin, la fin d’une époque de censure et d’interrogatoires, et le début d’une époque de saisie de biens. La caricature n’a pas suscitée tout l’intérêt qu’elle suscitera dans les prochains jours. Est-ce que par cette saisie, le ministère empêchera la publication de caricatures, articles sur le Roi ou sur les princes et princesses ?! Ni les censures, ni les interdictions, ni les gros montants de dommages et intérêts n’ont empêchés la publication de tels articles ! Il faut bien penser à une solution qui arrange LES DEUX PARTIES, pas seulement UNE ou AUCUNE comme le cas d’Akhbar Al Youm.

During two months, the censorship of Telquel, Nichane, Le Monde, and the interrogation of several journalists (Al Ayam, Al Mishaal Al Jarida Al Oula), but wait, the best is yet to come: the end of an era of censorship and interrogation and the beginning of a period of seizure of goods. The cartoon has not yet aroused all the interest it will generate in coming days.   By seizing property, will the Interior Ministry prevent the publication of cartoons, articles about the king, the prince, or princesses? Neither censorship or bans, or large amounts of damages have prevented the publication of such articles! We must think of a solution that suits BOTH PARTIES, not just one or none as the case of Akhbar Al Youm.


  • Cyrax

    Actually at the begining of the 20th century the moroccan flag had a star of david on it, instead of the current pentagram. At that time general lyautey removed it.

  • I dream of a Morocco as such that when a cartoon like this one appears, we only have a debate or different opinions about it instead of shutting the newspaper offices and seizing the journal.

    You know, we would have only some controversy like the one that occured when The New Yorker relased its cartoon about the Obamas on its cover during the presidential campaign.

  • I personally think the cartoon was indelicate and foolish, but the stunning reaction of the government has struck a new law in the history of harassment of the media in this country: in an unprecedented move, the authorities have disdainfully overlooked the very procedure they, themselves, have established to stifle freedom of expression. Police showed up in front of the newspaper’s headquarters in Casablanca, sealed the offices and prevented any journalist from joining his place of work. When Bouachrine (the director of the banned publication) flanked by his colleagues and activists, including some bloggers we know, asked for a legal justification from the police chief, the authorities couldn’t show any. Morocco is looking more and more like a police state where a newspaper can be blocked regardless of the law. Benchemssi has a brilliant editorial this morning: if the most apparent aspects of repression at the moment seem to be touching primarily the media, one can expect a gradual shift toward a full spectrum dictatorship, where the establishment made up of the powerful and the privileged, wouldn’t tolerate any form of dissent.

  • Manus

    The difference Morocco is a dictatorship with a masquerade of a parliament full of puppets.

  • Mohammed El Mniai

    If I may say:
    the government of morocco allowed the freedom of expression, we are proud of having a very advanced status compared to all the Arab countries. but the freedom should not be misused by some journalist or publications, i have been following the cases sued, believe me noting major to signal in any case it’s just a “Show-off”
    I wish our journalist play a complimentary role in this booming morocco, let them follow up on the investments been done, projects launched, laws and rules that will facilitate the lives of Moroccans do researches and advice the government. bring the real stories, let them make caricature of a minister or a head who steals or lazy…. Honestly what value/meaning/message in showing the prince in the AMARIA, {Nothing} and is he a Moroccan to intent to change the flag, these are not Moroccans for me to claim the freedom.

    as a country we are Muslim not laic, we are a kingdom not a republic, we should respect our leader and his family. at least he is keeping us all together united.

  • […] featuring the prince amongst several 6-pointed stars of David.  The Moroccan Interior Ministry condemned the cartoon, calling it “blatant disrespect to a member of the royal family” and stating that the […]

  • Zalamoka

    About the Hexagram: Traditionally, a “Amaria” (the wooden platform used to carry the spouses) was made out of beautifully designed carved wood. The hexagram in the picture is very common in Morocco’s architecture and design: See this ceiling here:

    We can try to over-interpret the sign. However, I believe that it’s nothing more than a representation of the Moroccan carving found on wooden furniture, ceilings, doors, amarias etc…If you have spent any time in Morocco and visited old houses or mosques, you would know that. Or Am I so naive?

  • Zalamoka

    Oops! I didn’t notice that the actual Moroccan flag star is altered. I was totally talking about the carvings on the amaria! In this case, I do believe the changes to the star are flagrantly intentional. I just can’t explain the message behind it?

  • […] voorwaardelijke gevangenisstraf en een geldboete wegens een spotprent over de bruiloft van de neef van M6 in Akhbar Al […]

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