Morocco calls al-Jazeera shutdown 'final and irrevocable'
By Naoufel Cherkaoui for Magharebia in Rabat – 04/11/10
Morocco on Friday (October 29th) suspended all broadcast operations of Qatari satellite TV channel al-Jazeera and revoked accreditation for the pan-Arab news network staff, claiming that "irresponsible" coverage had seriously "damaged the image of Morocco" and its "territorial integrity".
Al-Jazeera slammed the decision, saying that its coverage of Moroccan affairs has always been professional, balanced and accurate.
Al-Jazeera also confirmed that "the recent decision by the Moroccan authorities would not change the network's editorial guidelines," and that the channel would "continue its coverage of the Moroccan affairs to serve the interests of viewers in line with journalistic values".
The network's Rabat bureau chief, Abdelkader Kharroubi, said he would "try to make the authorities reverse their decision".
"We won't leave Morocco; rather, we will do our best to resume our work," he said.
The reasons cited by the government for the shutdown "are completely untrue, especially as the channel's editorial guidelines have not changed in years," Kharroubi said. "There is no line hostile to Morocco or that causes damages to the country's supreme interests."
But Communication Minister Khalid Naciri said in a statement to Magharebia that the "file of al-Jazeera has been closed once and for all"
"The ban of the channel's office and withdrawal of accreditations from its correspondents is final and irrevocable, and can't be reversed in any way," Naciri said.
Regarding the possibility of negotiating with al-Jazeera instead of resorting to such a decision, Naciri said that "the dialogues have extended for years, but have been in vain".
"The Moroccan public opinion unanimously agrees on praising the position of the government in its relation with al-Jazeera. That decision is final, and al-Jazeera won't work in Morocco again unless it apologizes to Moroccans in public," the minister said.
This is not the first time that the news network has been banned in Morocco. The ministry suspended al-Jazeera in 2008 for "technical" reasons.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) criticised the latest closure:"There is no reason whatsoever that justifies such a sanction against a foreign media outlet, which came in total violation of the legal rules, especially as the freedom of opinion is guaranteed under the Kingdom's constitution."
"This is an incorrect decision and is contrary to the trend of developing the media field," said Mohamed Aouni, the head of the Organisation for Media Freedom and Expression.
"It's not acceptable to cite some negative points on the part of al-Jazeera channel as a pretext to take measures affecting the freedom of media and viewers' right to evaluate the work of media," Aouni noted.
The decision has sparked mixed reactions among Moroccan viewers.
"The channel is tarnishing the image of Morocco because it only depicts the negative aspects in the country," said Ibrahim. "It's also unfair in its work, and the proof is that it didn't report on the file of Ould Sidi Mouloud who defected from the Polisario."
"The closure of al-Jazeera office is a great loss and a strong blow to democracy, but the loser here is Morocco rather than al-Jazeera," al-Jirari said.
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