Le Journal Hebdo Loses Appeal

The appeals court in Rabat upheld a judgment against independent newsmagazine Le Journal Hebdo in the libel lawsuit brought against it by the Belgian think tank ESISC:

[The think tank’s] study said the United Nations should drop efforts to hold an independence referendum for Western Sahara, a mineral-rich former Spanish territory seized by Morocco in 1974. The rebel Polisario Front waged a long desert war seeking to end the annexation and gain independence.

The magazine said in December that the findings were so similar to official Morocco’s views that it raised questions about whether the study was “guided by” and possibly paid for by the Moroccan government.

The punitive damages against the weekly’s publisher, Aboubakr Jamai, and writer Fahd Iraqi were the biggest ever given journalists in Morocco, leading rights groups to question whether the courts were trying to curb media from taking independent stances on important matters.

“With this disproportionate sentence … the judges are clearly trying to silence the journal,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

The group said the magazine wasn’t allowed to mount a proper defense. During the trial, the judge barred Le Journal Hebdomadaire from introducing an expert witness, prompting the magazine to withdraw from the proceedings in protest.

Read it all here And weep.