Background Briefing

<<previous  |  index


Moroccan authorities should allow independent publications to exercise the right to freedom of expression to the full extent guaranteed by international standards, without fear of judicial or other forms of harassment. To that end:

  • Authorities should introduce legislation to amend all provisions of the Press Code of 2002 that violate internationally recognized standards of freedom of expression. Libel should be treated as a strictly civil matter; criminal libel statutes should be abolished. Authorities should also abolish articles that criminalize statements deemed insulting to the King, a royal prince, or princess (Article 41); insults against foreign heads of state, prime ministers, foreign ministers (Article 52); and insults against foreign ambassadors and consuls in Morocco (Article 53).
  • Authorities should introduce legislation to eliminate or drastically limit the scope of other articles that criminalize statements that “undermine” the Islamic religion, the institution of the monarchy, or Morocco’s territorial integrity (Article 41); and that criminalize publication of “false information” in “bad faith” that “disturbs the public order” (Article 42);
  • As a matter of priority, all of the above articles should be amended to eliminate prison terms as an option for punishment.
  • Until such time as the Press Code is brought into line with internationally recognized standards of freedom of expression, authorities should refrain from prosecuting journalists under provisions that violate those standards, or that impose imprisonment as a penalty for speech offenses.
  • Authorities should provide guidance to judges to ensure that when assessing damage awards in libel cases, they take into account the potential chilling effect of the award on freedom of expression, among other things; that the award bears a proportionate relationship to the harm actually done; and that it takes into account any non-financial remedies such as publication of corrections.

In addition, authorities should conduct an investigation into the genesis of street demonstrations in February protesting against Le Journal’s supposed publication of the controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and publicly release conclusions as to the role that specific public officials played in ordering and organizing them.

<<previous  |  index May 2006