Moroccan Government Charges Editor with Criminal Defamation

Freedom House calls upon the Moroccan government to drop all criminal defamation charges brought against Youssef Jajili, editor in chief of the investigative weekly Alaan Magazine.

“The charges against Youssef Jajili should be dismissed immediately,” said Karin Karlekar, project director of the Freedom of the Press survey at Freedom House. “In addition, we urge the Moroccan government to repeal the current criminal defamation laws because they are designed to suppress dissent and criticism, and they have no place in a democracy.”

The charges stem from a June 2012 article published by Jajili in which he reports that Abdelkader Amara, minister of manufacture and trade in the current government, ordered champagne to his hotel room while on a taxpayer-funded trip outside of the country. The charges were embarrassing to Amara as Islamic law forbids Muslims from drinking alcohol. Amara accused Jajili of contriving the story, even after Jajili published the hotel bill showing the charges for the alcoholic beverages under the official’s name.

Jajili was formally charged on Monday in Ain Al-Saba court in Casablanca, and according to reports, his trial is scheduled to begin on January 28th.

“The ongoing assault against the media in Morocco is disturbing and the government must allow journalists the environment to conduct their jobs without fear of punishment,” added Karlekar.

Under Article 52 of the Moroccan Press Law, journalists can face up to one year in jail and fines of up to 100,000 dirhams (US$11,955) if convicted on defamation charges. Press freedom in Morocco continues to be restricted by widespread self-censorship, as many journalists fear heavy fines, prison sentences, or extralegal intimidation in retribution for their stories.

Learn More:

Freedom in the World 2012: Morocco

Freedom of the Press 2012: Morocco