- A Moroccan court imposed heavy fines on two journalists after they were found guilty of defaming Islam and being in breach of public morality. Driss Ksikes and Sanaa al-Aji were fined over US$ 8,000. Their weekly magazine, 'Nichane', was banned from publishing for two months.
The legal representative of the journalists vowed to appeal against what he called a "harsh" verdict.
During the initial stages of the short-lived trial, the prosecutor, who believed that journalists are mandated to equate liberties and responsibilities, asked the court to sentence Mr Ksikes and Mr al-Aji to at least five years in prison.
Earlier, the journalists had published an article about how Moroccan humour was rich in jokes involving Islam, sex and politics.
Moroccan authorities said the men had insulted God, the prophets and the King of Morocco and that they should be prosecuted accordingly so that it would serve as a deterrent to other journalists.
But Mr Ksikes and Mr al-Aji had maintained that the published jokes have been used by many people on a daily basis. Moroccan humour is known to be both ample and biting, often touching issues that are otherwise taboo in this authoritarian society.
Media watchdogs, particularly the Paris-based Reporters sans Frontières (RSF), described the prosecution of the two journalists as a "damage to press freedom" in a country where media reform was being initiated over the past years, although never being implemented.
Morocco has one of the most rigid media regulations of the region, with a long list of journalists and editors being prosecuted over the past few years. Even unauthorised reporting about the royal house has caused the imprisonment of journalists and the closing down of newspapers.
King Mohammed VI has promised to launch both democratisation and liberalisation reforms, but critics say that the ruler has only concentrated on economic liberalisation while leaving the human rights situation where it was during his father's regime.
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