Liberal Moroccan publisher charged with defaming monarchy

A quick note on this before more tomorrow (I don't have much time and net access today): Ahmed Reda Benchemsi, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Moroccan weeklies TelQuel and Nichane, was arrested briefly over the weekend and charged on Monday with insulting Morocco's King Mohammed VI. The reason? An editorial in TelQuel and Nichane criticizing the speech the king gave on the occasion on the anniversary of his enthronement. The Moroccan blogger Kingstoune has translated intro French the offending article from Nichane (an Arabic language weekly written in Darija, the Moroccan dialect, which can make it tough to read for a non-Moroccan, although Larbi scanned the article here if you want to try.)

The CPJ has details on the case here. Note that charges also include offending Muslims.

Needless to say, this is a rather sad time for Morocco as this charge comes soon after lawsuits were launched against two journalists late last month for publishing leaked security documents, the first Nichane case earlier this year in which two journalists were given suspended sentences for "insulting Islam" and the forced departure of AbouBakr Jamai, perhaps the most courageous Moroccan journalist, from the country.

It's hard not to agree with my favorite Moroccan blogger, Larbi, who says:

J'arrive à l'évidence suivante: le Maroc a opté pour une politique de la peur visant à faire taire tous ceux qui sortent du moule habituel. Il ramène tout à la « haute trahison» là où il y a de simples opinions personnelles. Il cadre, aujourd'hui plus que jamais, la pensée et définie son champ d’exercice. Il n’en finit pas de multiplier les intimidations et les contraintes. Ancré dans ses certitudes, il ne supporte pas le regard différent de certains de ses citoyens, interdit leurs questionnements, rejette leurs colères. Il les veut tous semblables, alignés sur la même pensée, roulants à la même cadence, conformes au même modèle modélisant . De ce fait, il est plus proche d'un pays totalitaire du tiers-monde, et peut être il l'est, que d'un pays qui aspire à la démocratie. C'est triste, c'est vraiment triste. Je dis NON à cette politique de peur. Nous ne cèderons pas !
My translation: I've come to the following conclusion: Morocco has opted for a politics of fear aiming to silence all of those who don't fit the official mold. It speaks of "high treason" when dealing with simple personal opinions. It frames, today more than ever, critical thinking and limits where it can be exercised. It forever multiplies threats and constraints. Anchored in its beliefs, it cannot bear the critical examination of its citizens, forbids their questioning, rejects their angers. It wants them all the same, aligned on the same frequency, moving at the same rhythm, conforming to the same model. In this regard, it is closer to a totalitarian country in the third-world -- and perhaps it is one -- than a country that aspires to democracy. It's sad, it's really sad. I say NO to this politics of fear. We will not concede.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.