1 October 2004

Alert

Editor's prison sentence increased to one year on appeal


Incident details

Anas Tadili

editor(s)

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(RSF/IFEX) - RSF deplores the one-year prison sentence and 10,000 dirham (approx. US$1,100; 900 euros) fine handed down by the Rabat Appeals Court, on 29 September 2004, against journalist Anas Tadili. Tadili is accused of libelling Economy Minister Fathallah Oualalou.

Tadili, the editor of the weekly "Akhbar al-Ousbouaâ", is already serving a six-month prison sentence in Kenitra prison (north of Rabat) for a common law offence. His family and lawyer say he is being held in the wing reserved for those who have been sentenced to death.

"We strongly condemn the application of prison sentences in libel cases and we call on the Moroccan authorities to amend the Criminal Code in order to eliminate jail sentences for press offences," RSF said.

The organisation noted that the United Nations has called on all governments "to ensure that press offences are no longer subject to prison sentences except in cases of racist or discriminatory comments or incitement to violence."

"Journalists may be sanctioned in other ways that show more respect for press freedom, such as the payment of a fine or damages to those who have been defamed," RSF said. "In Tadili's case, such a long prison sentence and incarceration in a high security prison seem completely disproportionate to the offence."

Tadili was convicted for reporting in a 9 April article, entitled, "Homosexuality and the Political Class in Morocco," that police had surprised a government minister in a homosexual act at a northern beach resort. He did not name the minister but was clearly alluding to the economy minister.

"Even if calling someone a homosexual is very serious in Muslim culture, there is no justification for a one-year prison sentence," Tadili's lawyer told RSF. "I think what counted for the court was the fact that Mr. Oualalou is a government minister and former teacher at the Royal College," he added.

Six days after the article was published Tadili was imprisoned, allegedly in connection with a 10-year-old common law case. A detention order was issued when he was unable to pay a 3 million dirham (approx. US$325,000; 270,000 euros) fine.

Meanwhile, Oualalou asked Prime Minister Driss Jettou to bring a libel action on his behalf. In Morocco, the head of government has the power to bring such actions when a minister considers he or she has been defamed.

On 1 June, Tadili was sentenced to six months in prison. Approximately 10 other complaints have been brought against him and are currently being investigated by judicial authorities.



Source

Reporters Without Borders
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Morocco
 
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