Proposed press laws threaten to set stricter limits on what journalists in Morocco can report about the king, the government or the country in general. Journalists could be sentenced to five years in jail for a critical report.
The future of a proposed bill, which would update current laws adopted in 2002 that were initially intended to ease restrictions, is now in the hands of the Parliament.
Concern about the laws include fears of unjust penalties and unfair and arbitrary limits being imposed on journalists, according to an editorial on the Arab Press Network Web site.
“Article 66 consequently stipulates that anyone undermining the authority of the King or members or his family, Islam or territorial integrity may face a prison sentence of one to five years. The same applies to those who seek to shake ‘army morale’ or whose publications ‘go against morality and public morals,’ who risk a spell behind bars according to articles 69 and 72,” the editorial stated.
In a letter to Moroccan Prime Minister Driss Jettou, Reporters Without Borders stated that the “most disturbing aspect of the draft is the decision to retain articles providing for prison sentences for press offences. Most of the legal provisions used to convict journalists in recent years have been kept (intact). Among the most common offences one finds ‘insulting the king’ and ‘insulting the sacredness of institutions.’”
The new bill, which may be enacted prior to national elections Sept. 27, also has been harshly criticized by the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Freedom of Expression eXChange. The committee reported in April that Moroccan officials said “drafting of the amendments continues and is open to improvement.”
State of the media
•A publisher and a reporter were arrested in Casablanca after the text of an internal government memo on national security was published in the weekly Al Watan Al An (The Nation Now).
•The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement in April that strongly criticizes the way journalists in Morocco are being treated. “Over the last two years, Moroccan courts have levied stiff criminal penalties and civil damages against independent news publications, effectively banishing two of the country’s most outspoken journalists from their profession, pressuring a third to quit journalism and sending a strong message to independent-minded journalists who report on sensitive political issues in the kingdom.”
•An organization to monitor press freedom throughout the Arab world was established recently in Rabat, Morocco. The project is a joint venture between the Federation of Arab Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists.
Stories in the headlines
•Prime Minister Driss Jettou appeared in Parliament in mid-July to outline all his administration had done through the years to improve the country. Reuters reported that Jettou was attempting to “reach out to voters as the country gears up for parliamentary elections in September.” africa.reuters.com/wire/news/usnL17298182.html
•Since the beginning of July, Morocco has been at the maximum level of security. The Associated Press said the Interior Ministry cited “serious threat of a terrorist act” within the country. www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/07/06/terror/main3026451.shtml
•Three Moroccans and a Muslim imam were arrested in late July near the central Italian city of Perugia. According to Voice of America, “Investigators accuse the men of recruiting and training terrorists to commit acts of violence abroad.” www.voanews.com/english/2007-07-21-voa22.cfm
•Morocco gained independence from France on March 2, 1956.
•The Kingdom of Morocco, slightly larger than California, has a population of about 34 million.
•There are 15 regions; Rabat is the capital, while Casablanca is the largest city.
•Almost 99 percent of the people are Muslim.
•Arabic is the official language, but French is commonly spoken.