Press Freedom Group Protests as Morocco Expels AFP Bureau Chief
Watchdog group Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF - Reporters without Borders) has protested to Morocco over the expulsion of the Rabat bureau chief of Agence France-Presse, RSF said in a statement Sunday.
The Moroccan government has withdrawn accreditation for Claude Juvenal, 56, and said he must leave the north African country by Monday evening, but given no reason, AFP management announced Saturday.
RSF secretary-general Robert Menard has written to Moroccan Prime Minister Abderrahmane Youssoufi to ask him to "reverse this decision", which was "unacceptable" and showed "growing intolerance" of press freedom, the statement said.
Morocco's culture and communications ministry announced the measure in a letter addressed to AFP's chairman and managing director, Bertrand Eveno, but gave no reasons for the decision to expel the bureau chief.
The decision was "very serious and highly unusual and can only be interpreted as a flagrant attack against freedom of information," AFP management said.
Reporters sans Frontieres said it showed "growing intolerance manifested by the Moroccan authorities regarding the work of professionals in the news business and recalls the authoritarian practices which prevailed under the reign of Hassan II, which we had thought vanished."
Menard regretted that "Morocco is not keeping its promises, although encouraging signs were given after the accession of Mohammed IV to the throne" in July 1999, following the death of his father, who had ruled for 38 years.
In its communiqué, RSF said that "as, since January 1, 2000, seven newspapers have been banned and three journalists placed under house arrest, RSF already expressed concern on October 13 at the serious deterioration in press freedom in the kingdom."
In the past year, Moroccan authorities have directly or indirectly expressed their dissatisfaction with AFP's coverage of domestic events.
They reacted in particular to AFP's coverage of the trial last February of Moroccan army Captain Mustapha Adib, who had said corruption was rife in the country's armed forces.
Adib, 31, was sentenced on appeal to two and a half years in jail.
Moroccan authorities also said they were unhappy with what they said was regular usage by AFP of news reports released by the Moroccan Association of Human Rights.
Juvenal, who was correspondent in Rabat from July 1996, is the third AFP correspondent to be expelled from Morocco in recent years, after Pierre Doublet and Jean-Marie Wetzel, who were expelled under the late king Hassan II -- RABAT (AFP)
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