Morocco - Government accused of persecuting Al-Jazeera after it brings charges against bureau chief and withdraws his accreditation



    MONTREAL, June 16 /CNW Telbec/ - A charge of publishing false information
that was brought against Al-Jazeera Rabat bureau chief Hassan Rachidi on
13 June, quickly followed by the immediately withdrawal of his press
accreditation without waiting for him to be tried, were condemned today by
Reporters Without Borders as "excessive."
    Rachidi is to be prosecuted for quoting a human rights group's claim that
protesters were killed in clashes with the police, although the Qatar-based
satellite TV station subsequently issued a correction.
    "It makes no sense to press charges against Rachidi after the news media
he represents recognised its mistake by publishing the government's denial of
the apparently false information," Reporters Without Borders said. "Worse
still was the communication ministry's decision to withdraw the accreditation
he needs to work, punishing him as if he was guilty before he has been tried."
    The press freedom organisation added: "These actions constitute
persecution and highlight the government's hostility towards Al-Jazeera and
its staff in Morocco. Why is this? We hope to find out if Rachidi's trial goes
ahead. Meanwhile, we call for the immediate restitution of his accreditation."
    Rachidi and Ibrahim Sebaa El Layl, a representative of the Moroccan
Committee for Human Rights (CMDH), were notified on 13 June that they have
been charged with "publishing false information and complicity" under article
42 of the press law for reporting that several people were killed in clashes
between jobless protesters and police on 9 June in the southern city of Sidi
Ifni. The claim was made in a CMDH press release that was quoted by
Al-Jazeera.
    The authorities disputed the CMDH claim, insisting instead that the
clashes had resulted in 48 injured (including 28 policemen) and 188 arrests.
Although Al-Jazeera reported the official figures in a strip across the bottom
of the screen, the communication ministry accused Rachidi of "persisting in
giving credence to this false allegation."
    Rachidi told Reporters Without Borders that the ministry withdrew his
accreditation just half an hour after he had been notified of the charges. His
trial has been set for 1 July.
    Relations between Al-Jazeera and the Moroccan government have
deteriorated. In May, the station was forced to stop broadcasting a daily news
programme covering the Maghreb from its studios in Rabat.

    Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press
freedom throughout the world. It has nine national sections (Austria, Belgium,
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). It has
representatives in Bangkok, London, New York, Tokyo and Washington. And it has
more than 120 correspondents worldwide.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4188, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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