Moroccan editor jailed

A Moroccan editor has been jailed for “intentionally publishing false information” about the king's health.

Driss Chahtan of al-Michaal newspaper was sentenced to a year in jail and two other journalists – Mostafa Hiran and Rashid Mahameed – were sentenced to three months each with a fine of 5,000 dirhams ($655).

Two journalists from another newspaper, al-Jarida al-Oula, are due in court next Wednesday, also charged in connection with reports about the king's health. Last August the paper published a front-page story which quoted medical sources as saying that Mohammed VI, who had had to cancel his activities for five days, was ill with a virus.

Earlier this week, a court in Casablanca confirmed an interior ministry order closing the daily Akhbar al-Youm, after it published a cartoon about the wedding of Prince Moulay Ismail, a cousin of the king. The paper's editor, Taoufik Bouachrine, and cartoonist Kalid Kadar are due in court on criminal defamation charges next Friday.

Although levels of press freedom in Morocco have improved in recent years, the authorities are still extremely sensitive about any public discussion of the royal family. In August, copies of two magazines were seized after they published an opinion pollshowing that 91% of Moroccans had a "positive or very positive" opinion of the king's performance.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 17 October 2009.