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Two Moroccan journalists prevented from covering presidential election

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders deplores the 9 April 2009 arrest of two Moroccan journalists, Hicham El Madraoui and Mahfoud Aït Bensaleh, who had gone to Algiers to cover the presidential election for the Moroccan weekly "Assahrae Al Ousbouiya".

"Their arrest does not bode well for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's third term," Reporters Without Borders said. "The international media have been prevented from covering this election properly. We hope the media will be allowed to cover Bouteflika's next administration in a better manner."

The Algerian embassy in the Moroccan capital of Rabat told Medraoui and Bensalah at the start of the month that they would be able to obtain accreditation at the press centre in Algiers. On their arrival at Algiers airport on 8 April, they provided all the information required to enter the country. When they went to the press centre, they were told to come back the next day.

They returned to the press centre at 8 a.m. (local time) on 9 April but were turned away and were then arrested and interrogated for more than four hours at Algiers police headquarters. They were finally released after the Moroccan embassy intervened. On returning to their hotel, they found that their room had been ransacked. Plain-clothes policemen followed them on the evening of 9 April.

The police questioned them again on 10 April as they were about to leave for the airport and took their passports. The passports were returned only after the Moroccan embassy intervened and an embassy official accompanied them to the airport.

"Assahrae Al Ousbouiya" editor Mohamed Reda At-Taoujni told Reporters Without Borders: "Moroccan journalists are used to having problems working in Algeria. No Moroccan journalist wanted to go to Algeria to cover the elections because they knew it would be impossible for them to work."

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