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Rabat’s reaction to Al Jazeera 8, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, North Africa, Qatar.
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I hope to start listing the reactions from around the Arab world to Al Jazeera. In the past, these have ranged from the withdrawal of Ambassadors to the shutting down of electricity in main cities to avoid citizens watching an Al Jazeera documentary.

Here is Doha’s Centre for Media Freedom commenting on the Moroccan authorities:

The Rabat appeal court reduced the fine against Hassan Rachidi, Al Jazeera’s former bureau chief in Morocco, for “putting out false information” to 30,000 dirhams (about US$ 3,600) yesterday.

The ruling came a year to the day after the satellite TV channel’s frequency was withdrawn, which meant its North African news programme could no longer be broadcast from Rabat.

The Moroccan authorities charged Rachidi under article 42 of the press law after he reported on air that several people had died in clashes between police and inhabitants of Sidi Ifni, in the south of the country, in June. The journalist quoted inaccurate statements made by a human rights organisation.

Although the channel later issued a denial, Rachidi was fined 50,000 dirhams and the communications ministry withdrew his accreditation. He has since left Morocco and gone to work at Al Jazeera headquarters in Qatar.

“Al Jazeera’s presence in Morocco is particularly important because it challenges other governments in the region which refuse to let the channel in”, the Doha Centre said. “Its journalists must be allowed to work freely.

“Unfortunately, the decisions taken against Al Jazeera by the Rabat authorities in 2008 were a sign of growing official tension against the channel. The sudden, groundless ban on the regional news programme broadcast from Rabat, which was an important platform for many Moroccan politicians and human rights activists, was a striking example.”

Al Jazeera opened its Moroccan bureau in 2004 and launched the North African news programme two years later.