Astronomic damages award against leading
Arabic-language daily upheld on appeal
October 30, 2008 - Updated on January 20, 2016 Reporters Without Borders is stunned by a Rabat appeal court's ruling today to uphold a lower
court's decision in March ordering Rachid Nini, editor of the daily newspaper Al-Masae, to pay a
total of 6 million dirhams (550,000 euros) in damages and a fine of 120,000 dirhams (11,000
euros) in a libel case. “We deeply regret this ruling which just confirms the fragility of the gains
achieved by the press in Morocco,” Reporters Without Borders said. “A commitment on the part
of the state to free expression would require an overhaul of the laws on press offences and
training of judges. Only this would enable Morocco's judicial system to respond in a fair and
democratic manner to defamation suits.” The press freedom organisation added: “In this
particular case, how can the appeal court judges ignore the fact that their decision is liable to
jeopardize the newspaper's survival? We continue to wonder about the motives of Morocco's
judges, who are very severe towards the country's independent press.” The lower court ordered
the exorbitant damages and fine on 25 March in a libel case brought against the newspaper by
four deputy prosecutors in the northern town of Ksar Al-Kébir over an article that said regional
officials had attended a supposedly gay marriage ceremony. The officials were not identified.
Nini told Reporters Without Borders: “This ruling is very serious because it sets a legal
precedent for press cases. Tomorrow, another newspaper could be ordered to pay a similarly
astronomic sum. This ruling is a disgrace for my country.” Morocco was ranked 122nd out of
173 countries in the press freedom index which Reporters Without Borders issued on 22
October.

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