10 January 2007
Prosecutor seeks prison terms and closure of "Nichane" weekly
(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has voiced dismay at the sentences of three to five years in prison and bans on working as journalists that the state prosecutor requested on 8 January 2007 in Casablanca at the start of the trial of Driss Ksikes, editor of the Arabic-language weekly "Nichane", and one of his journalists, Sanaa Elaji, on charges of "damaging Islam" and "publishing and distributing writings contrary to morals and customs."
The prosecutor also requested the newspaper's indefinite closure and fines for the two journalists that could be as much as 100,000 dirhams (approx. 8,950 euros). The trial was adjourned until 15 January.
"We are shocked by this senseless indictment and we hope the court will not follow the archaic and ultra-repressive position being adopted by the prosecutor," Reporters Without Borders said. "The Moroccan courts already took a medieval decision by banning journalist Ali Lmrabet from writing for 10 years and we dare not believe this will be repeated with Nichane."
The press freedom organisation added: "There is clearly a gulf between official talk of a modern and democratic Morocco and the reality that journalists must face, a reality marked by summary trials and heavy sentences that rein in the independent press a bit more every day."
Ksikes told Reporters Without Borders he was surprised by the severity of the sentences requested by the prosecutor. "We are being tried under the press law, but the prosecutor requested a ban on our working as journalists, which is only envisaged under criminal law," he said.
The charges stem from a feature in the newspaper's 9-15 December 2006 issue entitled "Jokes: How Moroccans laugh at religion, sex and politics." It prompted Prime Minister Driss Jettou to issue an order on 21 December withdrawing the issue from newsstands and banning further distribution.