Al Jazeera – Trouble in Morocco

Yesterday, the Moroccan government charged Hassan Rachidi, the head of Al Jazeera’s bureau in Rabat, with false reporting and conspiracy after Al Jazeera reported that five people in Sidi Ifni had been killed at demonstrations over unemployment.

 

Moroccan authorities claim that there were no deaths at the protests, but report that 188 people were arrested following clashes. The injured included 20 civilians and 28 police officers.

 

In his defense, Rachidi says the station received its information from what is considered a reliable source, the Moroccan Human Rights Centre (CMDH).

 

An official at CMDH also faces charges. The trial for both men was set for July 1.

 

Perhaps all of this wouldn’t seem so spectacular except for the fact that last month, the Moroccan government blocked Al Jazeera from continuing its daily news broadcasts on the Maghreb countries. The program had been airing for well over a year, and the withdrawal of its broadcast frequency over “technical and legal problems” was unexpected and without clear explanation.

 

No wonder Reporters Without Borders jumped in last month to say something about it. Perhaps they’ll speak up again.

 

Rachidi’s own reaction to being charged? “I am very surprised by this decision,” he said in a report on Al Jazeera, “but I believe [the authorities] want the head of the [Al Jazeera] bureau chief.”

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About Christine Benlafquih

Christine (Amina) Benlafquih is a freelance writer whose work includes articles, opinion pieces, personal essays and occasional fiction and poetry. A former publications and public relations director, she earned a B.A. in Journalism from Duquesne University in 1987. Originally from Rochester, NY, she has also lived in Pittsburgh, PA, the Washington, DC area, and now resides in Casablanca, Morocco. Her experiences as an American convert to Islam, both in the United States and in Morocco, serve as inspiration to much of her work. She is particularly concerned about the biased portrayal of Arabs and Muslims in the media, and about the division and labeling that occurs among Muslims themselves. Christine is a member of the Islamic Writers Alliance (IWA) and the Muslim American Journalists Association (MAJA). She is married and the mother of six children.

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