February 22, 2002 - Updated on January 20, 2016

The new press code retains prison sentences for press offences

Reporters sans frontières (Reporters Without Borders - RSF) is particularly worried about the provisions of the new Moroccan Press Code, which should be presented to Parliament in March. "This bill is particularly disappointing. The government can still ban Moroccan and foreign publications. In addition, it is unacceptable that a journalist can face a five-year prison sentence for a press offence," said Robert Ménard. Reporters sans frontières recalls that in a document dated 18 January 2000, Abid Hussain, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion, asked "all governments to ensure that press offences are not punishable by prison sentences, except for such offences as racist or discriminatory comments or calls for violence (…)," and pointed out that "imprisoning people for their peaceful expression of opinions is a serious violation of human rights." RSF asks the Moroccan government to reconsider this bill in a more liberal manner so press freedom can be guaranteed in this country. In addition, RSF protests about the incident where police beat several reporters while going to the Moroccan press agency MAP to discuss this press law. On 8 February 2002, the parliamentary commission for foreign affairs and national defense adopted the press law. This law maintains prison sentences for defamation of the king, princes or princesses. Those convicted of such offences can be imprisoned for three to five years, compared with five to twenty years in the former law. In addition, article 29 maintains the right, for the government, to ban Moroccan or foreign publications "if the publications are prejudicial to Islam, the monarchy, territorial integrity or public order." This new law also requires the executive branch of government to justify any seizures or bans of Moroccan or foreign publications. Four journalists, covering a demonstration by unemployed university graduates, were beaten by police with clubs on 20 February. The Moroccan Press Union (SNPM) announced, on 21 February, that it was filing a complaint against the police officers responsible for this brutality. "To stop this type of incident, we have decided to go before the courts so those responsible can be tried," said the general secretary of the SNPM, Younès Moujahid. "Freedom of the press is being targeted", he said, denouncing the authorities' focus on security.