Moroccan Newspapers to Appeal Government Ban in Supreme Court
Editors of three Moroccan newspapers banned over a story implicating the political left in a bid to kill the late King Hassan II have said they will fight the decision in the Supreme Court.
The Moroccan government banned three weeklies -- Le Journal, As-Sahifa, and Demain -- on Saturday for "threatening the stability of the state", Culture and Communications Minister Mohamed Achari declared.
The government decision was prompted by the appearance in Le Journal of November 25 of a letter attributed to former opposition leader Mohamed Basri, implicating socialist politicians in a foiled 1972 coup attempt.
The journalists announced their challenge to the decision at a press conference here on Sunday night.
"From now on only a biased press has the right to exist in Morocco, since an independent press is not wanted," Nour Eddine Miftah, news editor of As-Sahifa, said.
Aboubakr Jamai, editor of Journal and As-Sahifa, said 76 staff of the three papers would lose their jobs. He added that he would set up a new publication to appear next week.
Basri was a former co-leader of the leftist National Union of Popular Forces (UNFP), which became the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) in 1975. He returned from exile in 1995, but did not rejoin the USFP at the time.
During the press conference, Miftah read out a statement by Basri saying he wished the questions raised in the controversial letter to be discussed at the next congress of the USFP in March.
Basri neither denied or confirmed he had written the letter. He said only that he regretted its publication had prompted "polemics breaking all the rules of decency and the objective search for historical or political truth."
Human rights groups had expressed hopes of greater freedoms when King Mohammed VI took the throne on the death of his father in 1999.
The ban follows two other recent crackdowns on press freedom in Morocco, where a socialist leader of the 1970s, Abderrahmane Youssoufi, is today the Prime Minister.
On October 8, authorities placed a French television team under house arrest for illegal filming. Network executives said the crew was seized after making a program about a notorious former prison camp in the Atlas mountains at Tazmamart.
On November 5, authorities expelled Claude Juvenal, the Agency France-Presse bureau chief in Rabat, but never gave a reason for his expulsion.
An international press watchdog group Sunday called on King Mohammed VI to reverse the ban.
Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF, Reporters Without Borders) sent a letter to the king, asking him "to intervene personally so that this decision (to ban the papers) would be revoked" -- CASABLANCA (AFP)
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