- Two Moroccan weeklies have found themselves in hot waters after they were accused of disrespecting King Mohammed. The authorities confiscated the latest editions of Nichane (Fortnight) and Tel Quel (As It Is), the Arab and French language weeklies respectively.
Ahmed Benchemsi, who edits both newspapers, was called for questioning by the police in Casablanca on Saturday under orders from the judiciary, the Interior Ministry claims.
The Paris-based media rights watch, Reporters Without Borders said the development is a clear testimony of press freedom violations are mounting dangerously in Morocco.
"The political and judicial authorities must abandon this archaic practice of systematically confiscating newspapers that criticise the king or tackle sensitive issues such as sexuality or religion. Moroccan society has evolved. It is time the politicians evolved too," the organisation reacted in a statement.
"The government's talk of democratising Morocco is sounding more and more hollow. The authorities should immediately rescind the confiscation of these two weeklies and drop any plans to prosecute the journalists who produce them."
Nichane’s seizure was announced by the Moroccan Prime Minister, Driss Jettou, who accused the paper of "failing to accord due respect to the king" as well as run "expressions contrary to public morality."
A few hours later, the Minister of Interior ordered the seizure of Tel Quel's editions as well, accusing it of disrespecting the king.
"It has been decided to seize issue 113-114 of the weekly Nichane, which has an editorial and articles containing expressions contrary to morality that offend the feelings of Muslims and furthermore constitute a failure to accord due respect to His Majesty the King."
Nichane's latest issue criticised a speech that King Mohammed gave on 30 July. It also contained a feature on "Sex in Islamic culture" that was illustrated with ancient paintings and quotations from Arab and Muslim poets and authors about sexuality, which according to Moroccan authorities does not augur well with Islam and public morality.
Nichane's Chief Editor, Driss Ksikes, and a journalist, Sanaa al-Aji, were tried and convicted for publishing jokes about Islam last January. Each was given a suspended sentence and fined over $9,000.
Some people believed that the papers' editor had angered Moroccan authorities after he had questioned the usefulness of parliamentary elections next month in a country where the monarchy wields ultimate power.
Moroccans at not at ease with King's statement that he wil oppose anyone who questions the validity of the 7 September polls, implying that he is ready to reinforce democracy by making sure that opposition voices are silenced.
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