RSF protests against the terms of the new press law (which retains prison sentences for some offences) and calls for its amendment to make it less severe.
Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières - RSF) protested today against a new press law in Morocco that it said was "a serious threat to press freedom." It was "unacceptable" that under it a journalist could be jailed for five years for a simple media offence," said RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard, calling for its amendment to guarantee press freedom. RSF notes that the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, Abid Hussain, in a report on 18 December 2000, urged all governments to ensure media offences were not punished by imprisonment except for those involving racist or discriminatory remarks or appeals for violence. He added that imprisonment for peacefully expressing an opinion was a serious violation of human rights. The new law retains jail terms for insulting the king and royal princes and princesses and those convicted can be imprisoned for between three and five years, compared with 5-20 years under the old law. Article 29 retains the government's right to ban Moroccan or foreign newspapers if they "undermine Islam, the monarchy, national territorial integrity or public order." The law also says the government must give reasons for seizing or banning local or foreign newspapers. Last year nine newspapers, seven of them foreign, were censored for having reported on topics such as Western Sahara, corruption and the king himself. Parliamentary deputies approved the new law on 12 March and it will be considered by the upper chamber, the House of Councillors, in the next few weeks. RSF also expressed concern about the unofficial sacking of journalist Younès Moujahid from the daily El Ittihad el Ichtiraki. Aides of prime minister Abderrahmane Youssoufi, who is managing editor of the paper, told the journalist, who is also secretary-general of the national press trade union SNMP, that he did not appreciate his criticism of the country's counter espionage service, the DST, and of the new press law. Moujahid has not been paid since last month or been asked to write any articles.