Morocco’s ministry of interior ordered the seizure and banning of independent Moroccan newspaper Akhbar Al Youm for three days in a row, 26-28 September, 2009. According to a ministerial communiqué, the banned paper published a caricature of Mouly Ismail, the cousin of Mohammed VI, as he was celebrating his wedding with as a backdrop a Moroccan flag centered by… a Star of David. Taoufik Bouachrine, the owner of the newspaper, inveighed against the government’s decision to ban the Monday and Tuesday prints of his newspaper since the controversial caricature was published over the weekend. He denied the caricature depicted a Star of David. The Wiccan star on the Moroccan flag lacks the criss-crossing pattern shown on the caricature of Akhbar Al Youm.
The government is charging the newspaper with disrespecting a member of the royal family and flagrant anti-Semitism. It confiscated the newspaper’s offices and publishing locales. In an unusual course of action by the royal family, Mouly Ismail decided to sue Akhbar Al Youm for defamation.
The Moroccan government has grown increasingly sensitive to the country’s independent media as they broached subjects considered verboten. Its judicial and political cannonade of independent journalists and artists, and the newspapers and magazines they work for belies its averment it advocates and protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Some observers pointed out that the government stands as the backstage instigator of the ad hominem bickering plaguing the independent media these days.
Knowing the story behind the rift between Bouachrine and Nini of Al Masae, the latter is going to have a field day with this one.
UPDATE: The $6,400 fine and four-year suspended jail sentence the chief editor of Akhbar Al Youm, Taoufiq Bouachrine, and cartoonist Khalid Gueddar received for “insulting the emblem of the kingdom” were upheld by the appeal court of Casablanca today, Tuesday 28 December, 2009.
A. T. B. Copyright © 2009