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Court orders newspaper to stop publishing testimony about repression under King Hassan II

(RSF/IFEX) - On 19 June 2008, a Rabat court ordered the Arabic-language daily "Al Jarida Al Oula" to stop publishing hitherto unpublished testimony about repression under the late King Hassan II, which senior officials gave to an official truth commission called the Equity and Reconciliation Panel (IER).

The court issued the order in response to a request by Ahmed Herzenni, an official appointed by King Mohammed to head the Consultative Council for Human Rights (CCDH), which replaced the IER in 2005 and was put in charge of its archives. Herzenni's application cited a law for the protection of government archives, although the government has not yet issued decrees to implement it.

"The court based its order on royal directives, failing to take account of either the substance of the case or even the laws currently in force," Reporters Without Borders said. "This decision is regrettable and sets a dangerous precedent for press freedom."

"Al Jarida Al Oula" publisher Ali Anouzla said the testimony the newspaper had been publishing - some of it given by people who were very close to King Hassan - had been helping to lift the veil on the former regime's human rights abuses. "These documents do not contain state secrets and are not classified as public archives either," Anouzla said, announcing his intention to appeal. "This ruling is incomprehensible as there is no law that says they cannot be published."

"Al Jarida Al Oula" lawyer Hassan Semlali told Reporters Without Borders that the Rabat court should have declared that it had no jurisdiction and transferred the case to Casablanca, where the newspaper is based. Only cases tried under the press law can be heard by a court in any of the places where the newspaper is distributed, he pointed out.

Herzenni announced his intention to bring an action against the newspaper in a statement on 11 June. "In view of this persistence in violating public property with complete contempt for the law, we inform the public that the Council has decided to apply for a summary order to force the newspaper to stop publishing testimony intended to be a rich resource for serious researchers and not the subject of competition between journalists seeking a scoop."

A total of four previously unpublished testimonies were published in "Al Jarida Al Oula" before the 19 June court order. Launched on 19 May, the newspaper has a print run of 30,000.

Updates the "Al Jarida Al Oula" newspaper case:

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