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  • Pioneer of Moroccan press freedom shut down

    Journalist says closure is punishment for editorial line

    A Moroccan magazine known for its fierce criticism of the country's powerful monarchy failed to reach news stands on Saturday after a court sealed its offices for failing to honor its financial commitments.

    Le Journal Hebdomadaire's holding companies owe over 5 million dirhams ($622,700) in social security contributions, taxes and bank loans, editorial writer Aboubakr Jamai said.

    "It's true we're unable to keep our financial commitments, but why? We have come under economic attack -- it's a clear case of financial asphyxiation," Jamai told Reuters.

    He said the authorities had spent years discouraging companies from advertising in Le Journal.

    A plan for a wealthy Moroccan businessman to buy the magazine then fell through at the last minute, he said.

    "We are being judged for our criticism of the monarchy," said Jamai. "We point the finger at officials and name them and we follow that up with investigation and we take a position. We were the first to do that."

    Government officials could not be reached for comment.

    The government has said a series of legal actions and fines against Morocco's press in recent years have nothing to do with freedom of expression but are simply a natural response to bad, poorly-sourced journalism and slander.

    "This judicial liquidation heralds the end of the first independent title in Morocco," press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

    It's true we're unable to keep our financial commitments, but why? We have come under economic attack; it's a clear case of financial asphyxiation

    editorial writer Aboubakr Jamai