Ahmed Benchemsi, the editor of the sister weeklies Nichane and Tel Quel, is being tried on a charge of “disrespect for the king” under article 41 of the press law. He received a suspended prison sentence for libel in 2005 and could therefore go to jail if convicted this time. He faces up to five years in prison for criticising king’s speech. The media law offers the courts many ways to convict journalists. It also allows the authorities to seize and destroy entire issues without any possible recourse for the victims. Virtually all of the journalists prosecuted under article 41 in recent years have been convicted. Benchemsi received a summons from the Casablanca judicial police for the first time on 4 August after the latest issue of Nichane had been seized from news stands on the orders of Prime Minister Driss Jettou. He was questioned late into the night and was summoned for further questioning the next day. The police also went to the IDEALE printers in Casablanca on 5 August, seizing all the copies of Tel Quel and destroying them, this time on the orders of interior minister Chakib Benmoussa. As the latest issue was a special one for the month of August, a total of 50,000 copies of each of the two weeklies had been printed. Benchemsi estimates that their confiscation will cost him nearly 130,000 euros. Under article 41 of the press law, anyone insulting the king or a member of the royal family can be sentenced to five years in prison and a fine of 100,000 dirhams (10,000 euros). Many journalists have been convicted under this article, which has been in effect since 2002. The interest in this case has arisen because Morocco will undergo the parliamentary legislative elections on 7th September 2007. This will be the first election in Morocco to be attended by international observers.
EDITOR’S TRIAL IN MORACCO
Ahmed Benchemsi, the editor of the sister weeklies Nichane and Tel Quel, is being tried on a charge of “disrespect for the king” under article 41 of the press law. He received a suspended prison sentence for libel in 2005 and could therefore go to jail if convicted this time.