Al-Jazeera suspended in Morocco

The Moroccan authorities yesterday suspended al-Jazeera's operations in the country by withdrawing press accreditation its staff who are based there.

A statement from the communications ministry said the Qatar-based TV station had "seriously distorted Morocco's image and manifestly damaged its interests, most notably its territorial integrity".

It had shown a "determination to only broadcast from our country negative facts and phenomena in a deliberate effort to minimise Morocco's efforts in all aspects of development and to knowing[ly] belittle its achievements and progress on democracy".

AFP says the move appears to be mainly a response to its coverage of issues relating to Islamists and the Western Sahara dispute.

Following the closure of Nichane magazine under pressure just a few weeks ago, the suppression of al-Jazeera marks a further decline in media freedom in Morocco.

Two years ago, al-Jazeera's bureau chief in Rabat, Hassan Rachidi, was fined more than $6,000 for "disseminating false information" about violent clashes between police and demonstrators. Al-Jazeera had reported a human rights activist's claim that security forces had raped and killed protesters; it also broadcast government denials of the alleged fatalities. The activist who made the claim was jailed and fined.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 30 October 2010.