Moroccan journalists face jail

Two journalists from Morocco's biggest-selling daily newspaper have been sentenced to jail for "publishing false information".

Rachid Nini, founding editor of al-Massae was given a three-month sentence and writer Said Laajal a two-month sentence in connection with a report on August 17 about the dismantling of a drug trafficking network in Morocco. The "false information" charge arises from a suggestion that a judicial official was involved with the network.

Both journalists will remain free during the 10-day period allowed for an appeal but Nini says he has no intention of appealing. Describing the case as a masquerade, he said: "My sentence is intimidation. What's needed is to pursue the real traffickers."

Last month, Nini lost an appeal in a libel case and was ordered to pay six million dirhams ($688,043) in damages and fined 120,000 dirhams (US$13,759) for defaming four deputy prosecutors. The scale of the damages and fine was condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists as an attempt to close the newspaper.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 19 November 2009.