Morocco editor convicted for defamation
Casablanca - A Moroccan editor was handed a two month suspended prison
sentence on Monday for defamation, after writing that an Islamist minister had
organised a lavish, alcohol-fuelled dinner during an official trip abroad.
The court in a suburb of Casablanca also fined Youssef Jajili, the director of AlAan magazine, 50 000 dirhams (€4 500), and ordered him to pay a symbolic
dirham to the plaintiff, Minister of Industry and Trade Abdelkader Amara.
Jajili, who had been charged with disseminating false information, was not
present in court when the ruling was announced, but his lawyer said he would
"This ruling is unjustified. The court did not consider our requests... We will
continue to fight for the freedom of expression," Brahim Rachidi told AFP.
Amara, who belongs to the ruling Islamist Party of Justice and Development
(PJD), filed a complaint after the publication last year of an article claiming he
had organised a sumptuous champagne dinner during a trip to Burkina Faso that
cost 10 000 dirhams of public money.
The minister said at the time that the magazine supported its claims with "false
witnesses and a false copy of the bill," calling the article "an attack on his honour
and dignity" that was aimed at "undermining the PJD".
During the five month trial, the editor defended the claims, saying he had a
supporting document which he refused to show the court, arguing that to do so
would endanger his sources.
His lawyer emphasised that the article had not accused the minister of consuming
Reporters Without Borders condemned Monday's ruling.
"Two years after the adoption of a new constitution... this prison sentence for
defamation, even if suspended, and heavy fine, shows how little of the promised
reform of Morocco's press code has been achieved," the press watchdog said.
Amnesty International had in February urged the court to drop the charges
against Jajili, who it said made several attempts to interview the minister and
published the article only after thorough investigative work.