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Three dailies heavily fined for criticising Libyan leader

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi has pursued legal action against Arabic journalists through his embassies abroad
Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi has pursued legal action against Arabic journalists through his embassies abroad

Reuters, via CPJ

Three independent Moroccan dailies have been slapped with heavy fines for "publicly harming" Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and "injuring his dignity", reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

A Casablanca court ordered each of the three newspapers - "Al-Massa", the country's leading daily, "Al-Garida Al-Oula" and "Al-Ahdath Al-Magrebia" - to pay a fine of 100,000 Dirhams (US$12,500) and damages of one million Dirhams (US$125,200) to Qaddafi. The 100,000 Dirham fine is the maximum amount allowed under Morocco's press law; damages are left to the judge's discretion.

"The exorbitant amount in damages indicates that the courts are being used again to settle political scores with critical journalists and to put critical publications out of business," said CPJ.

The case, brought by the Libyan embassy in Rabat, stems from articles criticising Qaddafi published by the three independent dailies in 2008 and early 2009. The stories commented on Qaddafi's seizure of power following a military coup, the arrest of his youngest son and daughter-in-law in Geneva for allegedly assaulting their domestic help, and Qaddafi's similarities to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Ali Anouzla, editor of "Al-Garida Al-Oula", told CPJ that the court's decision was politically motivated. He said the ruling would not prevent him or his colleagues from "doing their job, as far as criticising dictatorial regimes."

Moroccan journalists told CPJ that Qaddafi's support of Morocco's claim of sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara, Libyan investments in Morocco, and the presence of hundreds of thousands of Moroccan workers in Libya were among the issues that influenced the court decision.

According to CPJ, the Moroccan Association of Human Rights concluded in its annual report released last month that the right to a fair trial was violated in all proceedings involving journalists in 2008.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Related stories on ifex.org
  • In Qaddafi case, Moroccan court hands down harsh judgment

    CPJ condemns a Moroccan court decision to impose heavy fines and damages on three independent dailies for "publicly harming" Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

  • Journalists on trial for criticising Libyan leader

    Five Moroccan journalists are facing trial in Casablanca for "publicly harming" Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and "hurting his dignity", report the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).



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