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Attacks on the Press in 1999 - Morocco

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 2000
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1999 - Morocco, February 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c565b5c.html [accessed 30 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Press freedom appeared to benefit when Muhammad VI ascended the Moroccan throne in July, following the death of his father, King Hassan II, who had ruled for 38 years. The easing of self-censorship, which began in earnest after the formation of the government of Prime Minister Abdel Rahman Youssefi in 1998, accelerated thanks to the young monarch's liberal policies. The new king allowed exiled dissidents to return to the country and sacked notorious Interior Minister Driss Basri. Meanwhile, newspapers demonstrated a new assertiveness in tackling issues such as unemployment, human rights, and official corruption.

However, journalists often avoid coverage that the government might regard as adversarial. And the so-called three taboos – the monarchy, the country's claim of territorial sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara, and Islam – must never be challenged in public.

Self-censorship is further encouraged by a number of legal instruments. The press code stipulates tough penalties for journalists who defame public officials or offend any member of the royal family. Authorities have the legal power to confiscate, suspend, or revoke the licenses of publications that are deemed a "threat to public order." Foreign publications risk confiscation if they report unfavorably about Morocco.

Satellite dishes are widely available to Moroccan citizens and offer access to Arab, French, and regional programming. At the same time, Internet use has blossomed in recent years and is available to citizens without government restrictions. A large number of cyber cafés provide the public with access to the Internet, but individuals who want to be connected at home must pay relatively high service costs, which put an Internet connection beyond the reach of most Moroccans.

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