Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Morocco Bans a Magazine

On December 21, the MEMRI Blog reported that:

The Moroccan government has decided to ban the weekly magazine Nichane and is accusing it of "infringement on religion and Moroccans' feelings" because it published "jokes" about the Prophet Muhammad and King Al-Hasan Al-Thani, and on sex.

Reporters Sans Frontieres has issued a press release about this incident with additional details and context:

The prosecutor’s office decided to take legal proceedings against editor Driss Ksikes and journalist Sanaa Al Aji for “damaging the Islamic religion” and “publication and distribution of articles contrary to morality”.

“In taking this double step, the Moroccan authorities remind anyone who might have forgotten that the judicial arsenal is always available to curb the free expression of Moroccan journalists,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

Despite promises and undertakings made by Rabat in recent months, the “red lines” are still clearly there to constrain all journalist work, it said. Forbidden items include the sacred status of the king, Islam as state religion, Western Sahara, the army or morals. These bans are found as often in the 2002 press code as in the anti-terror law or the draft law on opinion polls. And always in terms vague enough to allow the widest interpretation. The same bans also appear in an ethical charter recently adopted by the Federation of press editors.

The RSF press release makes one very important point: it notes that the ban on Nichane is intended, at least in part, to appease Moroccan Islamists. Unfortunately, it is likely only to incite them:

Reporters Without Borders said it believed the steps taken were based on an electoral calculation in the run-up to polling which could be marked by a strong showing on the part of the Islamist movement. The organisation said it feared that, far from calming the extremists, these measures could dangerously expose journalists on Nichane.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Again, as with the Rafiq Tagi affair, we see the symbiotic, mutually reinforcing relationship in the Muslim world between government censorship and Islamist censorship. When regimes in Islamic countries seek to ban expression critical of Islam, it simply encourages Islamists to intensify their own efforts at censoring opposing viewpoints.


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