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ICC Note: Morrocco is another one of those enlightened and tolerant Muslim countries where you can be thrown in prison for sharing the Gospel.

Moroccan Journalists Detained For “Offending Islam”; Christian Converts Concerned

BRUSSELS/CASABLANCA (BosNewsLife)– The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has urged media unions throughout the world to support Moroccan journalists who are on strike to demand the release of their colleague Mustapha Hurmatallah and others jailed on charges that include “offending Islam”.


The case is expected to be monitored by Christian converts impacted by other freedom of expression issues, including preachers, who have also been accused of “offending Islam,” BosNewsLife established.

In a statement monitored by BosNewsLife Wednesday, August 8, the IFJ affiliate, known as ‘the Syndicat national de la presse marocaine (SNPM)’, called on its members “to stop work for thirty minutes at 1 pm” local time on Tuesday, August 7, and urged those who can “to converge on the courts in Casablanca ,” where the trial of their colleague was to resume.

Reporter Hurmatallah was detained July 17 along with Abderrahim Ariri, managing editor of the Arabic-language weekly Al Watan Al An. They were arrested in Casablanca after their publication ran a feature entitled “The Secret Reports Behind the State of Alert in Morocco ” quoting military intelligence documents.

The two journalists were first charged with publishing “reports of a confidential nature linked to defence secrets.” Later Ariri was freed provisionally while Hurmatallah was kept in prison pending the opening of the court proceedings adjourned to Tuesday, August 7, the IFJ said. They are now both charged with “possessing stolen documents,” the organization said.

WATERSHED MOMENT

“This is a watershed moment for the right to know and the protection of journalists’ sources in Morocco ,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “The IFJ, with over 600,000 journalists, is fully behind the action taken by the Moroccan colleagues. This is a crucial struggle in which all IFJ unions have a stake.”

IFJ Vice President and General Secretary of the SNPM Younes M’Jahed said, “This case is looking more and more like a travesty of justice. Hurmatallah is now in his 22nd day in prison despite the efforts by his legal team to have the charges against him dismissed. He must be released at once. Moroccan journalists believe that the justice system is being used once again to gag journalists and this is why we would be taking action today.”

The Syndicate, which has been leading the campaign for the release of the two journalists, organised on July 24 a day of solidarity involving all its members throughout the country. The case has underscored concerns about growing pressure on journalists not to “offend Islam” and the authorities.

“Journalists were further outraged by a decision on Saturday, August 4, of the Moroccan government to confiscate last week’s issues of another Arabic-language weekly Nichane and the French-language weekly TelQuel for publishing an editorial and articles considered by the government as “disrespectful” of the King, against public morality, and offending Islam. Their editor Ahmed Benchemsi was held for questioning,” the IFJ said in a statement to BosNewsLife.

OTHERS DETAINED

Early this year, two journalists from the same weekly Nichane, Driss Ksikes and Sanaa Al Aji, were given a three-year suspended sentence and a fine of $7,400 by a court in Casablanca for publishing an article on Moroccan jokes on Islam, sex and politics. Their magazine was banned for two months.

Morocco ‘s 1992 constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but its designation of Islam as “the state religion” has made it difficult for devoted Christians, or journalists in general, to openly express their faith or other opinions.
Any criticism of Islam is banned under the Penal Code and is punishable with up to five years in prison, experts say.

Advocacy groups have expressed concern that King Mohammed VI continues the policy of his father, late King Hassan II, who reportedly claimed to be a direct descendant of Prophet Mohammed and was committed to preserving Islam as the “religion of all Moroccans.”

That makes life more difficult for journalists as well as Christians, who are in a minority and comprise roughly one percent of Morocco ‘s over 33 million people, according to experts. Growing pressure on Christians or independent media “offending Islam” in the country comes after neighboring Algeria introduced a controversial anti-conversion law last year after complaints of an increase in Christian conversions in al-Qabayel in the east of the country.

PRESS IMPASSE

Especially the “press in Morocco is now facing a dangerous impasse where the authorities are spinning out of control, seizing publications and imprisoning journalists using the flimsiest excuses,” added M’Jahed.

“The Moroccan political and judicial authorities have shown that their talk of democracy and commitment to a free press is sheer window-dressing and the latest arrests of journalist and attacks on press freedom are a serious setback for Moroccan journalism,” argued Boumelha “The IFJ calls on them to revoke forthwith the confiscation of the two weeklies.”