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Spanish photographer beaten by police in Rabat while covering demonstration

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns a physical attack by police auxiliaries on Rafael Marchante, a Spanish photographer employed by the British news agency Reuters, while he was covering a demonstration by jobless university graduates outside parliament in Rabat on 21 May 2008.

"This is not the first time the security forces have attacked a journalist while dispersing demonstrators," the press freedom organisation said. "The fact that this time it happened outside parliament makes it all the more unacceptable. We regard this incident as serious, especially as it comes amid a decline in press freedom in Morocco, and we urge the interior ministry to do whatever is necessary to ensure it does not recur."

Marchante, who has worked in Morocco for Reuters for nearly two years, was attacked by five members of an auxiliary security service attached to the interior ministry while covering one of the regular protests by unemployed graduates outside the parliament building.

"These demonstrations are held each week outside parliament," he told Reporters Without Borders. "This week I appeared to be the only person covering it." The auxiliaries were beating the demonstrators violently, including young women, kicking them in the face. Five or six auxiliaries came up to me, grabbed one of my cameras and beat me. I produced my information ministry accreditation but one of them, who appeared to be their superior, tore it up and then punched me twice in the face."

Three Moroccan journalists were roughed up by police while covering a protest against food price increases outside parliament in April. Hassan Fatih, the correspondent of the pan-Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera, was attacked while covering a demonstration by relatives of prisoners outside the justice ministry in May 2006. Lahcen Aouad of Assahifa was beaten up by members of the Rapid Intervention Brigade as he was about to photograph a jobless graduate simulating an act of suicide outside the gates of the parliament building in December 2004.

Journalist Mostapha Hurmatallah meanwhile continues to serve a seven-month prison sentence in Casablanca's Okacha prison. Reporters Without Borders wrote to King Mohammed VI on 6 May to express its support for his family's request for a royal pardon.

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