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ICC NOTE: Nichane magazine’s editor and one of its reporters are accused of defaming Islam and damaging public morality in an article about religious jokes.

Morocco journalists facing trial

BBC News

Jan 7 2007

A court case that has provoked international debate over the issue of press freedom is to open in Morocco .

The authorities in Morocco immediately closed the magazine down and withdrew copies of it from newspaper stands.

Driss Ksikes and Sanaa al-Aji face up to five years in jail and hefty fines if they are convicted.

The article that has caused such an outcry looked at popular jokes on religion, sex and politics.

Media reform

The journalists, who have received death threats, say they were not making fun of religion, but merely trying to see what light the jokes shed on Moroccan society.

They are supported by international organisations such as Reporters Without Frontiers, which says this is a serious blow for press freedom.

But the government does not see it that way, and says that attacking religion is one of the most serious offences a journalist can commit.

Since the death of the previous king, Morocco has been undergoing a period of modernisation and media reform has been part of that process.

However, this case may turn back the clock to the days when Moroccans had to be very careful about what they said.