RABAT, Oct 22, 2012 (AFP) -
RABAT, Oct 22, 2012 (AFP) –
Human Rights Watch on Monday called on Morocco to restore the press accreditation of AFP journalist Omar Brouksy, which was withdrawn this month over his coverage of a legislative by-election in Tangier.
“A country that respects freedom of expression should not be yanking press cards for mentioning the monarchy in the ‘wrong’ context or shutting down news bureaux because it dislikes their coverage,” said HRW’s regional director Sarah Leah Whitson.
The decision to suspend Brouksy’s press accreditation was taken in response to a story in which a reference was made to the participation in the by-election of candidates “close to the royal palace.”
The candidates in question ran under the banner of the Authenticity and Modernity Party, founded by Fouad Ali El Himma, a close adviser to the Moroccan king.
Communications Minister Mustapha el-Khalfi denied the existence of any link between the candidates and the palace, and the government described the story as “unprofessional,” saying it carried “allegations involving the monarchy in this electoral race.”
Reporters Without Borders earlier called the decision “political,” saying it was “clearly an interference in the independent practice of journalism.”
Human Rights Watch on Monday also referred to the two-year anniversary, next week, of the Moroccan authorities’ decision to close Al-Jazeera’s Rabat bureau, after withdrawing the accreditation of eight of its Morocco-based correspondents.
An official statement at the time accused the Arab news channel of having “seriously distorted Morocco’s image and manifestly damaged its greater interests, most notably its territorial integrity” — an allusion to the disputed Western Sahara.
“With Al-Jazeera now able to report from post-revolution Tunisia and Libya, Morocco finds itself among the shrinking club of governments in the region that bans Al-Jazeera,” HRW’s Whitson said.
“It should exit that club and stop trying to control how journalists cover sensitive subjects like the monarchy and Western Sahara,” she added.