Nichane magazine’s director Driss Ksikes and journalist Sanaa al-Aji (F) given three-year suspended sentences and fined $8,000; concerns for safety.
The Writers in Prison Committee of English PEN protests the suspended prison sentences given to Driss Ksikes and Sanaa al-Aji and the two-month ban of Nichane by a court in Casablanca on 15 January 2007. The journalists had published an article entitled: ‘Jokes: How Moroccans laugh at religion, sex and politics’ in the magazine’s issue of the 9 to 15 December 2006. Both journalists have reportedly received death threats from unidentified sources. English PEN is calling on the government to withdraw the charges and dismiss the case against Driss Ksikes and Sanaa al-Aji without delay and to ensure their protection.
According to PEN’s information, Driss Ksikes and Sanaa al-Aji were charged with defaming Islam under Article 41 of the Press and Publication Law 2002. The charges derive from a ten-page long article analysing popular jokes on religion, sex and politics that was published in Nichane as a feature in the 9 to 15 December 2006 issue entitled: ‘Jokes: How Moroccans laugh at religion, sex and politics’. Several Islamist groups campaigned against the magazine claiming that the jokes were an offense to Islam. The Moroccan government banned the paper on 20 December 2006 and the King’s prosecutor at the Casablanca High Court ordered the police to investigate the matter. On 22 December, Driss Ksikes and Sanaa al-Aji were charged with ‘damage to the Islamic religion’ and ‘publication and distribution of articles contrary to morality’.
The Court trial opened on 8 January 2007 and both journalists were handed three-year suspended sentences and a fine of $ 8,000 on 15 January 2007. They have both also been banned from working for two months and their magazine Nichane is also banned from publication for two months. While the sentences are considerably less severe than the five year imprisonment requested by the prosecution, they nevertheless violate the right to free expression enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Morocco is a signatory. Driss Ksikes and Sanaa al-Aji are appealing the sentences.
Please send appeals:
* Protesting the sentences given to Driss Ksikes and Sanaa al-Aji;
* Expressing renewed concerns for the safety of both journalists;
* Calling on the legal authorities to withdraw the charges and dismiss the case against Driss Ksikes and Sanaa al-Aji;
* Calling on the government to reform the country’s Press Code so that journalists cannot receive prison sentences, in accordance with international standard as set out by the ICCPR.
Please send copies to the diplomatic representative of Morocco in your respective countries. Please write in French if at all possible.
M. Driss Jetta
Le Premier Ministre
Fax : 212 037 768656
M. Mohamed Bouzoubaa
Le Ministre de la Justice
Place El Mamoumia
It may be more effective to send your appeals via the Azerbaijan representative in the UK:
His Excellency Mr. Mohammed Belmahi
49 Queen’s Gate Gardens
London SW7 5NE
For more information on our Defamation and Insult Campaign, please click here.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/moroccochargesbroughtagainstma/