The brief court hearing, attended by a CPJ representative, was
adjourned until June 1 at the request of the journalists' lawyers, who learned today
that the case was filed by the public prosecutor following a protest from the
Libyan Embassy in
Appearing in court today in Casablanca were Ali Anouzla, editor of the daily Al-Jarida Al-Oula; Mohamed Brini, editor of the daily Al-Ahdath Al-Magrebia; and Mokhtar Al-Ghizeawy, a reporter with the same newspaper. Rachid Niny, editor of Al-Massae, the country's leading daily, did not attend in protest of the charges. Younes Meskini, a former reporter for Al-Massae and the fifth defendant, told CPJ that he did not receive a summons for today's hearing.
The case stems from articles published by the three
independent dailies in 2008 and early 2009. Anouzla's November 18 opinion piece,
headlined "We and the Arab Maghreb," criticized not only Qaddafi, who seized
power following a military coup 40 years ago, but his autocratic counterparts
Al-Ahdath Al-Magrebia published three
articles, including a February 26 piece on Qaddafi's political treatise, Green Book, and a July 30 story on the
arrest of the leader's youngest son and daughter-in-law in
Al-Massae was targeted for quoting the Moroccan political analyst and former minister of communication, Larbi Messari, in a January 13 article as saying that "the positions taken by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are similar to the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's childish positions," Meskini, the author, told CPJ.
"It is shameful that Moroccan authorities who repeatedly
claim that they are paving the way for more independent journalism take three
independent papers to court under pressure from one of the foremost enemies of
press freedom in the world," said
Hassan Semlali, lawyer for Al-Jarida Al-Oula, told CPJ that he would raise questions about procedural irregularities. "This is a freedom of opinion case. There is no defamation at all. Qaddafi used all of his weight to muzzle three dailies at the same time. If he succeeds, he will do his best to silence more newspapers in the Arab world."
CPJ research concluded in May 2007