March 15, 2010
His Majesty King Mohammed VI
C/o His Excellency Aziz Mekouar
Ambassador of the
1601 21st Street NW
Via facsimile: 202-265-0161
The Committee to Protect Journalists is disappointed by the government’s continued use of the courts to suppress freedom of expression, and it urges you to use your constitutional prerogatives to end the unjust imprisonment of our colleague Driss Chahtan. We also ask you to instruct authorities to end the practice of withholding accreditation from journalists working for critical foreign news outlets.
conducted a mission to
his need for medical care and a plea for a royal pardon, Chahtan has been held since
mid-October in harsh conditions in Oukacha Prison in
In addition, two defamation cases have been filed against
Chahtan, one by a group close to some of your relatives and the other by a
former employee of the intelligence services. The cases are now being examined
CPJ has also tracked the withholding of accreditation from at least three journalists who work for international media. Our research shows that Mohammed al-Baqali and Anas ben Saleh of Al-Jazeera, and Mahmoud Maarouf of the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi have been unable to renew their accreditation despite having filed the necessary paperwork months ago. We ask that you instruct relevant authorities to expedite this normally routine procedure.
Although officials have publicly said that
verdict, along with a September 2009 Supreme Court decision to uphold crippling
damages against the independent weekly Le
Journal Hebdomadaire in a defamation
case, have also heightened concerns about the lack of judicial independence.
In January, the
Our research has found that the handling of the case was politically motivated. So, too, was the handling of other cases, including the government’s arbitrary closure in September 2009 of the independent daily Akhbar al-Youm and the confiscation of its assets after the paper published an editorial cartoon about a royal wedding.
As you know, Moroccan parliamentarian groups have launched what they call a national dialogue on media and society, an initiative that could be a positive step. But it must be accompanied by concrete reforms, notably a change in policy that ends the use of the judiciary to settle scores with critical journalists. (The journalist Ali Lmrabet remains in exile today, five years after he was targeted for politicized prosecution.) The release of Chahtan and the end of arbitrary decisions to withhold accreditation from critical journalists who work for foreign media are also urgently needed. And as we have urged in the past, we call on your government to decriminalize defamation, repeal more than 20 jail-term articles in the 2002 press law, and abide by international standards for freedom of expression online, in print, and on the air.
Thank you for your attention to these matters. We look forward to your reply.