The Committee to Protect Journalists has released an in-depth multimedia report that is highly critical of the free-expression rollback in the kingdom of Muhammad VI (M6). The title says it all: "The Moroccan Facade: Politicized Court Cases, Media Law, Harassment Undermine a Nation's Press Gains." When you start to open up, you raise expectations. And so when you try to switch into reverse, you'll get slammed. Here's a taste:
...In the last five years, three Moroccan journalists have gone to jail for extended periods for their published work—ranking Morocco alongside Tunisia as the Arab world’s leading jailer of journalists. Together, these factors prompted CPJ in May to designate Morocco as one of the world’s worst backsliders on press freedom.
Benchemsi’s ordeal captures the unpredictable and increasingly sophisticated pressures Moroccan authorities have brought to bear on journalists to deter unwanted criticism while minimizing international censure. Unlike the blunt repression used by some of their neighbors, Moroccan authorities have exploited third-party lawsuits and a politicized judiciary to clamp down on the press. Beyond the courts, they have intensified pressures such as advertising boycotts, the use of state media to attack critics, and the covert planning of “demonstrations” against outspoken newspapers.
And this spring, government officials began discussing amendments to the country’s press law that call for the establishment of a national press council with the power to withhold advertising and to ban journalists for purported ethics violations. The revision leaves intact vaguely worded prohibitions against disrespecting the monarchy, Islam, and defaming state institutions such as the army and judiciary. Despite limiting the number of offenses that can land a journalist in jail, the draft legislation increases maximum fines for alleged violations of the law...
Despite a self-styled parliamentary government and a vibrant civil society, however, real power remains firmly in the hands of the king and the makhzen, a shadow government composed mainly of palace officials, leading members of the security apparatus, and the army who operate behind the scenes and guide major decisions. Critics say the young king and a small clique of his close associates are accumulating power rather than relinquishing it as a true democracy would demand.