See also:
» 05.08.2009 - IFJ condemns seizure of magazines in Morocco
» 22.04.2009 - Arabic network condemns sentencing of journalist
» 03.11.2008 - Morocco bans French magazine
» 19.09.2008 - Moroccan blogger freed
» 10.09.2008 - Moroccan blogger jailed
» 26.11.2007 - Moroccan agent: "Plans to assassinate Lmrabet"
» 08.08.2007 - Moroccan weeklies in trouble for “disrespecting king”
» 15.01.2007 - Moroccan journalists fined for blaspheming jokes

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Three more Moroccan journalists detained

afrol News, 20 June - Three more journalists are in Moroccan detention as the purge against the remnants of an independent press continues in the Kingdom. A total of five journalists now are behind bars in Morocco, as the Rabat regime turns into one of the region's worst media freedom oppressors.

Journalists Mohamed Al Herd and Abdel Majid Taher, editors at the local weekly newspaper 'Al-Sharq', and Mustapha Qashnini, editor of the local weekly 'Al-Hayat Al-Maghribiya', have been in detention since 12 June, according to one of their lawyers, Mohamed Ziyyan. Both newspapers are published and distributed in Oujda, a city in northwestern Morocco along the Algerian border.

The journalists, who have been detained for questioning under Morocco's new anti-terrorism law, were charged with "extolling the actions that comprise terrorist crimes," said Mr Ziyyan in a phone interview with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). If convicted, the journalists face up to six years in prison.

Mr Ziyyan said that the charges stem from an article by an Islamic activist named Zakariya Boughrara that appeared in the 5-30 May issue of 'Al-Hayat Al-Maghribiya' and was reprinted on 5 June in 'Al-Sharq'.

In the article, Mr Boughrara discussed the history of the Islamist movement in Morocco and its relationship with the country's intelligence services. According to sources in Morocco, Mr Boughrara has not been arrested, CPJ reports.

In addition to Al Herd, Taher, and Qashnini, Ali Lmrabet, of the French-language weekly 'Demain' and its Arabic sister publication 'Douman', and Mustafa Alaoui, of the weekly 'Al-Ousboua', have been arrested.

Mr Lmrabet was sentenced to four years in prison (later reduced to three) and fined 20,000 dirhams (US$ 2,000) on 21 May for "insulting the king" and "challenging the territorial integrity of the state" in a series of articles and cartoons in his publications, which authorities also closed.

The editor has been on a hunger strike since 6 May, protesting his treatment. On 26 May, at the end of his third week on hunger strike, he was rushed from prison to Avicenne hospital in Rabat.

Mr Alaoui, meanwhile, was detained on 5 June under Morocco's anti-terrorism law for publishing a communiqué issued by an Islamist group that claimed responsibility for some of the multiple suicide bombings in Casablanca on May 16.

CPJ in a statement released today said it was "extremely alarmed about the detention of three Moroccan journalists, bringing the total number of journalists currently in custody there to five."

- Morocco up to now has had a better press freedom record than its neighbours, said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. "Now, using the excuse of fighting terrorism, it is detaining more journalists than any other Arab country. We call on the government to release the five currently in prison and to stop arresting journalists for doing their jobs," she added.

The case against Mr Lmrabet has highlighted the deteriorating situation of the press in Morocco, where the new government of King Mohammed VI accepts even less critiques than his late father. With the terrorist attacks against Casablanca on 16 May, the oppression of the country's semi-independent media has turned into a purge against any free expression in the media.

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