Reporters group slams Morocco for suppressing media

The Paris-based organization said laws that could free up journalism have been stalled

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Reporters Without Borders on Friday condemned the suppression of media freedoms in Morocco, saying journalists are under pressure to avoid “sensitive” subjects.

The Paris-based organization, which monitors media liberty around the world, said three laws that could free up journalism in Morocco have been stalled in parliament.

“Officials have above all been putting pressure on the press to ensure that ‘sensitive’ subjects are not covered in a free and independent manner,” the group said in a statement.

It cited the deportation of two French journalists last month who had been looking into the impact of the 2011 “Moroccan Spring” protests that led to key powers being passed from the king to parliament.

The France 3 journalists had their video recordings seized after police stormed into the offices of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights.

In January, a France 24 crew was also prevented from filming a program entitled “Can we laugh about everything?” in the capital Rabat.

Three media reform bills were introduced by the government in October, giving greater protections to journalists and removing almost all prison terms for media offences, apart from insulting the king or religion or “endangering territorial integrity.”

But the bills have been held up by parliament, and “journalists fear that disproportionate and exorbitant fines will replace prison terms,” said Reporters Without Borders.

The Morocco government hit back, saying the criticisms were “unjust and unjustified” and that the French journalists in question were operating without proper permission.

“Morocco’s efforts in recent years... have contributed to an improvement on several indicators of press freedom,” said communications ministry spokesman Mohamed Aswab in a statement.