Sunday, February 04, 2007  

Morocco- telling jokes behind closed doors...??? ?????

Morocco, as some of us have noted, is doing a two step: one step forward, two giant steps back. We mentioned in an earlier post how Morocco is returning to its old ways of employing torture, and has acquired some new ways- namely acquiring the US as a client state in its ever growing quest to outsource, including torture.

Many of us were hoping that freddom of the press would be something Mohammad VI would embrace, especially in light of the fact that he had separated the Ministry of the Interior from the Ministry of Information and retired many of his father's loyal servants in the upper eschelons of the ministeries. But now, with the suit against Nichane over the jokes issue, questions are being raised. The official charge was "insulting Islam" since many of the jokes recounted in the issue were making fun of religion- these being jokes you can hear at school, among friends, told by colleagues,at home- in short, many are common knowledge. So why the thin skin? What is really beneath this? In a relatively moderate society, does this signal that al Malik is turning towards a stricter, public interpretation of Islam? Is this a harbinger of crackdowns on journalists and once again will we see young journalists going to jail for pieces they wrote for the opposition papers. And what about the bloggers? Will Morocco look to Egypt for its model, as Moroccan bloggers become emboldened by the medium?

Laila Lalami of Moorish Girl has a very articulate Op-ed over at the NYT that is very much on target.
But while the court cases against independent news magazines like Nichane, Le Journal Hebdomadaire and several others are within the bounds of Moroccan law, they appear to single out the independent press, to the exclusion of more partisan publications. These cases highlight a particularly troubling pattern, in which the regime represses the progressive voices it claims to champion.

Meanwhile, newspapers like Attajdid, the mouthpiece for an Islamic party, go unmolested, probably because they are careful to confine their criticism to social issues and generally avoid two of the three infamous “red lines” — the king and Western Sahara — that limit press freedom in Morocco. When it comes to the third taboo, Islam, such publications often set the tone for public debate, as they did during the Danish cartoons controversy.

The government then tries to prove that it, too, can defend Islamic values; hence the case against Nichane for printing jokes deemed offensive to the religion. It is a high-stakes game between the religious right and the government, and it is unclear which will come out the winner.

In a sign of the times, Nichane has retreated. The magazine has already announced that it will not appeal the court’s decision, and it is likely that it will respect the “red lines” from now on. In contrast, Aboubakr Jamaï, Le Journal Hebdomadaire’s besieged editor, resigned from his post in order to save his magazine. Since any salary he makes in Morocco can legally be seized to pay his colossal fine, he argued, he has to leave the country and work elsewhere. Morocco cannot afford to lose his voice.

(read the rest)
(info courtesy of Angry Arab News Service)

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