The government had made encouraging gestures towards press freedom in 2004 but this did not last into 2005, when two journalists were thrown in prison for supposed libel. One of them, Anas Tadili, editor of the weekly Akhbar Al Ousboue, was still in jail at the start of 2006 and a dozen other complaints against him were being considered. The other, Abderrahman el-Badrawi, former editor of the weekly Al-Moulahid Assiyassi, was pardoned by the king on 15 December, after three and a half years in prison in harsh conditions.
Other methods were used by the regime to silence dissenting voices. The weeklies Al Hayat al Maghribia (“Moroccan Life”) and Asharq (“The East”) were suspended for three months in January 2005. However, Moroccan journalists can work fairly freely as long as they do not cross the lines traced out by the monarchy, which bar discussion of the Western Sahara issue, anything to do with the king and various rackets involving senior government officials.
Ali Lmrabet was banned from working as a journalist for 10 years and fined 50,000 dirhams (€4,500) by the Rabat appeals court on 23 June for writing about Saharans in Tindouf. He has been constantly hounded and followed by the secret police. Hassan Rashidi, head of Al-Jazeera‘s office in Rabat, was threatened with death after the station put out a report from him about student protests in Western Sahara, where working conditions for both Moroccan and foreign journalists are very difficult. A dozen journalists were physically attacked, arrested or expelled from the region in 2005.
The weekly Al Jarida Al Oukhra was officially warned by foreign ministry protocol chief Abdelhak el-Mrini after a 6 April report in the paper about the daily activities of the king’s wife, Princess Lalla Salma. Managing editor Nureddin Miftah and journalist Maria Moukrim, both of the weekly Al Ayam, were summoned by the royal prosecutor after they ran a report about the royal harem. The paper Tel Quel was fined a total of 1,960,000 dirhams (€180,000) by a Casablanca court in two libel cases. An appeal court on 29 December reduced the fine in the first case to 800,000 dirhams (€72,000). Managing editor Ahmed Benchemsi and news editor Karim Boukhari were also given two-month suspended prison sentences.