Ali Anouzla looks on in front of Rabat courthouse on September 29, 2009 during his trial for publishing articles questioning the health of King Mohammed VI. AFP image
A Moroccan website editor faces arrest for airing an Al Qaeda video, which is an “open call for committing acts of terrorism in the country.”
Morocco on Tuesday arrested a news website’s editor and threatened legal action against Spanish newspaper El Pais for posting an Al-Qaeda video it said incites terrorism in the kingdom.
Ali Anouzla, the director of Lakome’sArabic language version, was arrested at his office in Rabat mid-morning, with police also seizing computer equipment, journalists working at the website said.
His arrest was ordered following the publication by Lakome of “a video attributed to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), containing a clear call and a direct incitement to commit acts of terrorism” in Morocco, the public prosecutor said in a statement.
Later in the day, Morocco’s justice ministry said the government had also decided to take legal action against the Spanish newspaper El Pais for having posted the same video on its website.
Justice Minister Mustafa Ramid contacted his Spanish counterpart Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon to express Rabat’s concern about the move by Spain’s leading centre-left newspaper, the ministry said.
By early evening, the Moroccan journalist was being held in police custody in Casablanca, his lawyer said.
He risks prosecution under Morocco’s anti-terrorism laws.
The 41-minute video, posted on the Internet last Thursday by AQIM and entitled “Morocco: the kingdom of corruption and despotism,” calls for jihad in the north African country and lashes out at King Mohamed VI, who is pictured being engulfed in flames.
It is thought to be the first of its kind singling out the Moroccan monarchy since AQIM, the jihadist network’s north African franchise, was created in 2007.
The YouTube version of the video was removed, with the site saying it breached the company’s policy on violence.
Denouncing Anouzla’s arrest
Lakome, a popular, independent website which publishes in French and Arabic and often criticises the authorities, issued a statement condemning Anouzla’s arrest.
It called the decision by the public prosecutor “excessive in more ways than one,” and insisted the website had clearly stated from the beginning that the video was “propaganda”.
“Even the act of broadcasting an AQIM video is a common practice among the international media,”Lakome said.
Anouzla is an experienced journalist formerly with pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat who is known for taking a critical position towards state institutions, including the monarchy, effectively a taboo subject in the Moroccan media, and has been prosecuted in the past.
Journalists plan to hold a sit-in outside the police headquarters where he is being held to call for his release.
Lakome’s decision to carry a link to the video had already drawn sharp criticism from Morocco’s mostly pro-regime media.
French-language daily L’Opinioncalled it “totally reprehensible,” accusing the website of ensuring that a video message supporting terrorism “receives the widest possible audience.”
The country’s national press union stressed its commitment to freedom of expression, while adding that “this freedom should be used with respect for the ethics of the profession, and refrain from publishing anything that could incite violence.”
Source: Doha Centre for Media Freedom
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