Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage at the Rabat appeal court's decision today to uphold a damages award of 3 million dirhams (270,000 euros) against the Journal Hebdomadaire newspaper in a libel suite brought by the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Centre (ESISC), a think-tank based in Brussels.
“The judges are clearly trying to crush the newspaper by confirming this exorbitant damages award, the biggest ever in a libel suit in Morocco,” Reporters Without Borders said. “A representative of our organisation attended the trial and saw how the rights of the defence were not respected, especially when defence witnesses were cross-examined.”
The organisation promised to help the Journal Hebdomadaire's management decide the next steps to be taken in the case, with the aim of ensuring this independent newspaper's survival.
The newspaper's managing editor, Aboubakr Jamai, and its editorial secretary, Fahd Iraqi, are also being fined 50,000 dirhams (4,500 euros) each as a result of the libel action, which was brought by the ESISC over a Journal Hebdomadaire article questioning the objectivity of a report it issued about the Polisario Front, which wants independence for Western Sahara.
“I expected this verdict because the courts do not respect legal principles and every kind of excess is tolerated,”said Abderrahim Jamai, le Journal's lawyer. The two journalists and their lawyers were not in court when the ruling was issued.