Moroccan authorities seize magazines publishing poll on King
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Casablanca – 04/08/09
The Moroccan government seized and destroyed 100,000 copies of the French-language magazine TelQuel and its Arabic sister publication Nichane on Saturday (August 1st) for publishing the results of an opinion poll on Moroccans' views on King Mohammed VI.
"This attack is not authorized," Communications Minister Khalid Naciri said in a press statement, adding that the seizure was caused by an attack on that which is sacred. He said it was well-known in advance that "this kind of survey" is not allowed. The monarchy in Morocco is out of bounds for press coverage and is not a suitable subject for debate, even by a survey, the statement read.
Moroccan authorities intercepted copies of the French daily Le Monde, which also published the poll results, as they arrived at the Casablanca airport on Monday, reported AFP. Naciri said he had warned the paper that it would not be sold in Morocco if it published the poll.
Ahmed Reda Benchemsi, the publications director for TelQuel and Nichane, expressed astonishment at the government's move. In a statement to the media on Saturday, he said the publications were seized because of the poll, which was conducted jointly with Le Monde and assessed the first ten years of King Mohammed VI’s reign.
The TelQuel Group, which owns the magazines, condemned the seizure and destruction of the magazines in a statement published on Sunday. AFP reported that the TelQuel Group plans to file a complaint with the Casablanca court this week.
"This double seizure measure is illegal – especially as it was not officially motivated, as stipulated by law, and there is no legal or regulatory provision which allows the authorities to destroy copies of newspapers which have been seized before the courts have made a ruling," the TelQuel Group said in a statement. They added that there is no law in Morocco banning or restricting opinion polls.
Benchemsi said the findings of the survey, called "The people judge their King," showed that 91% of the 1,000 Moroccans polled are satisfied with the monarch's performance. He called the decision to seize the issue unjustified and incomprehensible.
In a statement released Saturday, the Interior Ministry said the seizure went ahead following the publication of a group of articles that infringed on the law. The ministry statement said the steps were taken under Article 77, which outlines Morocco's press code.
Under the code, "The Interior Ministry may order a decree for the administrative seizure of any edition of a newspaper or periodical whose publication is a threat to public order, or which contains the items covered by Article 41," the statement said. According to the ministry, "Any offence by one of the means set out in Article 38, against his Majesty the King, the Royal princes or princesses, is punishable by imprisonment of 3 to 5 years and a fine of 10,000 to 100,000 dirhams."
The team behind the two magazines is now reportedly working hard to create two new editions that do not contain the survey in question, partly because of their commitments to advertisers.
Younes Moujahid, the president of the national press union (SNPM), said the seizure is not legal, since no law prohibits conducting opinion polls in Morocco.
"The union is against administrative seizures. These must be approved by the courts," he said on Sunday.
The SNPM, in a statement released the same day, denounced the administrative seizure, emphasizing that there is no law regulating opinion polls in Morocco. The SNPM called for press freedoms to be respected, and for any future press seizures to be carried out by the courts, as is usually the case, and not administrative departments.
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