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Moroccan newsweeklies confiscated over royal poll

A bizarre case of press censorship arose recently in Morocco when authorities seized 100,000 copies of the country's two leading newsweeklies--TelQuel and its Arabic-language sister publication, Nichane--after they published the results of a poll in which Moroccans were asked to assess their king. The odd part? Ninety-one percent of Moroccans said they found the rule of King Mohammed VI mainly "positive."

Moroccan authorities, in addition to seizing and destroying all copies of the magazines on August 1, seized copies of France's Le Monde, which had also published the poll, at the Casablanca airport, according to news reports. Le Monde went ahead and posted the results on its Web site. The survey was conducted as a joint venture between Le Monde and TelQuel.

"This attack is not authorized," said Communications Minister Khalid Naciri in a statement--referring to the poll, not the censorship. The statement explained that the monarchy is not a permissible target for polls and critical journalism. The Interior Ministry said the newspapers acted in violation of Article 38 of Morocco's press code, which forbids offending the king.

The TelQuel Group vowed to fight in the Casablanca courts. "This double seizure is illegal--especially as it was not politically motivated, as stipulated by law, and there is no legal or regulatory provision which allows the authorities to destroy copies of newspapers which have been seized before the courts make a ruling," the group said in a statement. But, according to Agence France-Press, judges upheld the government's right to seize the newsweeklies. 

Authorities previously confiscated and destroyed editions of Nichane and TelQuel in 2007 over an editorial critical of the king's commitment to democracy.

Jax Jacobsen is a freelance journalist based in Washington. She has written for MediaGlobal Newswire, the U.K.'s New Statesman, and The Guardian.

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