Correction: Please note that the source of this Joint Action is ANHRI.
(ANHRI/IFEX) - Sixty-eight human rights organisations and civil society groups issued the following joint statement to the Moroccan government on 28 June 2010, calling for an end to the politicised judicial harassment of journalists:
We, the undersigned 68 human rights and press freedom organisations, express our deepest concern about recent cases of politically-motivated attacks against Moroccan journalists for their critical reporting.
We are alarmed at the targeting of independent journalists by the authorities, particularly the cases of Taoufik Bouachrine, managing editor of the daily "Akhbar Al-Youm" and Ali Amar, former managing editor of the suspended weekly "Le Journal Hebdomadaire".
On 10 June 2010, Bouachrine was sentenced to six months in prison on criminal charges of real estate fraud. The case involved a civil dispute over the sale of a house purchased by Bouachrine three years ago that was already twice adjudicated in favor of the journalist. We object to the case being reopened as a criminal case, after it was already resolved under civil law.
We believe the criminal charges brought against Bouachrine are politically-motivated, stemming from the journalist's critical journalism and advocacy for press freedom. In 2009, the editor received a four-year suspended sentence and was fined 270,000 euros for publishing a cartoon judged offensive to the royal family. His newspaper was also arbitrarily shut down by authorities following publication of the cartoon in September 2009 but was re-launched under a different name in December of that year.
We also draw attention to an alarming instance of police brutality in the case of Ali Amar, who has experienced harassment at the hands of the authorities since he published a book that was critical of the King, "Mohammed VI: The Great Misunderstanding " in April 2009. On 4 June, security agents stormed the home of journalist Zainab El Ghazwi, with whom Amar was staying, on allegations that he had stolen a laptop, following a complaint filed by a former employee of "Le Journal Hebdomadaire". The officers searched the home without seeking El Ghazwi's permission, as required under law, subjected the two to a humiliating line of questioning about their personal lives and about their writings, and then detained the two journalists for 12 hours. Amar was re-arrested on June 7 and held for 24 hours; he now faces aggravated robbery charges. He is due on court at 29 June.
And, while we welcome the release on 11 June 2010 of Driss Chahtan, editor of the independent weekly "Al-Michaal", we believe he should never have been jailed in October 2009 for publishing articles about the King's health.
We call attention to the escalating trend in Morocco to punish and discredit critical journalists for their writing and activism, which creates a climate of fear and silences independent journalism. We urge the Moroccan government not to follow the path of its neighbour Tunisia, which uses the courts to unjustly persecute critical journalists.
Furthermore, we call for journalists to be fairly treated under the law, according to Morocco's international obligations as a signatory of international conventions on freedom of expression, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in addition to the provisions of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Finally, the undersigned organisations appeal to His Majesty King Mohammed VI, on the 11th anniversary of his coronation next month, to intervene to stop what even the Moroccan Minister of Communications, Khalid Naciri, called "a heavy-handed campaign" against journalists, according to April 2010 media reports.
Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Association of Independent Electronic Media
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building
Committee to Protect Journalists
Ethiopian Freepress Journalists' Association
Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP
Globe International Center
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety
Institute of Mass Information
International Federation of Journalists
International Press Institute
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de création
Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF)
Pakistan Press Foundation
West African Journalists Association
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
Non-IFEX member signatories:
Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
Arab World Center for Development and Human Rights
Arab Commission for Human Rights
Arab Foundation for Support Of Civil Society And Human Rights
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Association For Human Rights Legal Aid
Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance
Center for Human Rights and Democratic Participation (SHAMS)
Civil Observatory for Human Rights
Committee for the Defense of Democracy Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria
Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
Egyptian Center for Development and Human Rights
Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
Egyptian Center for Human Rights
Egyptian Center for Women's Rights
Egyptian Democratic Institute
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Egyptian Journalists League
Habi Center for Environmental Rights
Hisham Mubarak Law Center
Hoquqi Association for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
International Bureau for Humanitarians
International Coalition against War Criminals
Land Center for Human Rights
Nadeem Center for Psychological Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence
National Organization for Human Rights
New Woman Foundation
Palestinian Association for Human Rights (Monitor)
Reporters Without Rights
SADA for Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the Arab World
Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights
Syrian Center for the Assistance of Prisoners
Syrian Committee for Defending Journalists
Syrian Human Rights League
Technological Centre for Human Rights
Union Center for Development and Human Rights
Voice of Law Centre
Young Organizations Network