Morocco - Record damages award against editor of Morocco's leading daily

    MONTREAL, March 26 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders is shocked by
a Rabat court ruling yesterday ordering Rachid Nini, editor of the daily
newspaper Al-Massae, to pay a total of 6 million dirhams (550,000 euros) in
damages and a fine of 120,000 dirhams (11,000 euros) in lawsuits brought by
four deputy prosecutors accusing him of libel and "public insult."
    "We are outraged by the exorbitant size of the damages award," the press
freedom organisation said. "This is not the first time Morocco's courts have
acted with a heavy hand. Certain recent court rulings have badly hurt leading
Moroccan media and could lead to their disappearance. Judges should impose
sentences that are proportionate to the damage caused and should ensure that
press freedom is not endangered."
    Four deputy prosecutors filed separate lawsuits against Nini in early
February claiming they had been defamed by a report published on 18 November
in his newspaper. With a circulation of 100,000, Al-Masae is Morocco's most
widely-read daily.
    Without naming them, the report claimed that four judges had attended a
supposed gay marriage ceremony and party in Ksar Al-Kébir, a small town in
northern Morocco. Seven people who attended the party were sentenced by a
Rabat appeal court on 16 January to sentences ranging from four to ten months
in prison.
    Nini told Reporters Without Borders that yesterday's court ruling was
"inexplicable and unacceptable" and reflected "a desire to destroy my
newspaper and restrict free expression in Morocco." He intends to appeal.
    Nini was the victim of a knife attack outside Rabat's main railway
station on 3 February. He told Agence France-Presse at the time that he was
surprised that the attack took place while he was being sued.

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)

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