"We are alarmed that state-run media are publicly attacking this newspaper," said Ann Cooper, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. "We are gravely concerned about the safety of Le Journal's staff, and call on the government to take steps to ensure their security."
Le Journal issued a detailed statement Tuesday about the protests and television coverage. It said state-run television stations 2M and TVM broadcast footage of hundreds of demonstrators shouting slogans against Le Journal on Monday outside Parliament. 2M accused the newspaper of "running against public opinion by taking up positions against the sacred values of our country."
On Tuesday, police set up an area for protesters outside Le Journal's offices. Under the supervision of the Interior Ministry, several vehicles, including a Hyundai van with the license plate 131723 J, belonging to the Casablanca city government, brought about a hundred people to demonstrate. Municipal employees gave them placards and Moroccan flags, the statement said.
Municipal employees used loudspeakers to shout slogans against the papers. Several people in the crowd told journalists that they were brought by the municipal authorities. One woman said that she came because the municipality would reward them, but that she didn't know what the demonstration was about. Television channels 2M and TVM filmed the demonstrations, the statement said.
"The allegations that the Moroccan authorities played a role in organizing these demonstrations are alarming. We demand that the government explain why municipal vehicles were shuttling protesters and why municipal employees were organizing the crowds against the paper," Cooper added.
The fallout from the cartoons continues throughout the Muslim world. In Syria, journalist Adel Mahfouz was arrested and charged by the Damascus prosecutor's office following an article he wrote advocating peaceful dialogue instead of violent protests as a means of dealing with the cartoons. According to news reports Mahfouz was arrested on February 7, hours after he published the article on the independent daily news Web site Rezgar. He was charged with insulting public religious sentiment under the penal code. If convicted, he faces up to three years imprisonment.