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IFJ condemns seizure of magazines

(IFJ/IFEX) - 4 August 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today strongly condemned the order issued last Saturday by the Minister of the Interior to seize and destroy over 100,000 copies of two weeklies, TelQuel and Nichane magazines, which carried results of an opinion poll on King Mohammed VI's decade on the throne.

According to the Syndicat National de la Presse Marocaine (SNPM), an IFJ affiliate, the order was implemented while the magazines were in press. The ministry alleges that the publishers, the TelQuel group, contravened current legislation by publishing, in partnership with the French daily Le Monde, the results of an opinion poll assessing the last ten years of government since King Mohamed VI came to power.

"Once again the Moroccan authorities have scored an own goal. To mark the tenth anniversary of the king's accession to the throne, they have been trumpeting new liberties they claim he initiated in matters of press freedom and civil liberties," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "By banning the publication of a mere opinion poll, the authorities have shown they are still prepared to behave as intolerant dictators."

According to the syndicate, the decision was doubly illegal as there is no legislative text that allows for the pulping of newspapers without a judicial order nor any legislation that forbids the publication of opinion polls.

This particular opinion poll showed more than 91% of Moroccan citizens rated the last decade of the king's rule as either "positive" or "very positive".

"Opinion polls the world over, are well-proven tools to advance democracy and governance. By saying that their king cannot be subject to an evaluation by his own people, the Moroccan authorities have once again set back freedom of opinion and freedom of the press. They will be judged by their actions and will find it more and more difficult to convince the world that they are sincere democrats," added Boumelha.

In 2007, Nichane magazine was suspended for two months and its Director, Driss Ksikess, and journalist Sanaa Al-Aji ordered to pay a fine of about US$8,000 by a court in Morocco following publication of jokes about Islam, sex and politics.

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