The four journalists and the MP were convicted of breaching a law on the publication of classified government information.
Rabat – The Court of First Instance in Rabat has sentenced four journalists and one member of Parliament to a six months suspended prison sentence and a fine of MAD 10,000, each.
The journalists—Mohamed Aheddad with Al Massae newspaper, Abdelhak Belachgar with Akhbar Al Yaoum newspaper, and Kaoutar Zaki and Abdelilah Sakhir with Aljarida24 online outlet—and MP Abdelhak Hissane began their trial in early 2018. The president of the House of Councillors, Hakim Benchamach, brought the lawsuit against them.
Benchamach sued the four journalists for reporting “on excerpts of the classified documents, in December 2016, of the former head of government, Abdelilah Benkirane, in the commission of inquiry into the deficit of the Moroccan pension fund (CMR),” according to Medias24. He sued Hissane for leaking the information.
The journalists and the MP were prosecuted under Article 14 of the procedural rules governing parliamentary commissions of investigation.
The article stipulates total confidentiality in the commission’s work. Anyone who has published information from the commission can incur a sentence from one to five years in prison, with a fine from MAD 1,000 to 10,000.
Mohamed Aheddad declared to AFP news agency that “the verdict is against the freedom of expression.”
Aheddad further stated that he was prosecuted along with the other journalists for “publishing accurate information.” He said that they would appeal the verdict and argued that he is convinced of his innocence.
MP Abdelhak Hissane told AFP, “The verdict is unfair and based on nothing.” He added that “the journalists were just doing their job.”
In agreement, the National Union of the Moroccan Press (SNPM) published a statement on March 27, condemning the verdict, considering it “unfair towards the four journalists and the freedom of the press.”
The SNPM holds Benchamach responsible and described him as a “self-proclaimed opponent of the freedom of the press and expression.”