Monday, January 08, 2007

Banning Nichane Magazine for Blasphemy



Should Nichane Magazine be banned?
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Press freedom has evolved in Morocco in the past few years. Compared to the era when the press was directly controlled by the state in the person of the previous Interior Minister Driss Basri (dismissed in 1999), there is an era of relative freedom. Among the subjects that Moroccan press can talk about is monarchy. Journalists are relatively free to talk about monarchy under late King Hassan the Second and his Son the current King Mohammed the Sixth.

They write provocative articles such as the cost of monarchy. There were articles about scandals in the royal palaces. In the past years, the press was free to report about fund embezzlement in Agadir Royal Palace as well as the theft of precious items from Marrakesh Royal Palace. Such incidences used to be covered up. No Moroccan media could write about it.

In Morocco, many journalists exercise self-censorship. The good news for them is that they are no longer liable to imprisonment in case they are sued for what they have written. There is only a fine for them to pay.

Concerning Nichane magazine's editor and one of its reporters who are accused of defaming Islam and damaging public morality in an article about religious jokes.
these jokes because of which “Nichane” newspaper was banned and prosecuted , they are widespread in Morocco. (Personally I didn’t read the issue that has been banned). Generally, the religious jokes that are widespread in Morocco are about some Muslim clerics known for their greed or sexual exploitation of women and children. Such clerics are in most cases imaginary as they can be the stereotype of a certain category. There are jokes about the Day of Judgement

For “Nichane” newspaper, it seems to have crossed the red lines as it tackled a sensitive subject in Morocco, which is mainly religion. The Moroccan government is trying to curb the influence of Islamist extremists. By allowing such publications, it will give them an opportunity to win public support as for them the Moroccan government is pro-western.

Even the Islamist newspaper Attajdid was in the middle of media storm when it interpreted last Asia Tsunami as the wrath of God as this region was according to it a bastion for sex tourism. An Egyptian cleric Al Qaradawi was attacked in Moroccan media because of his fatwa (religious edict) allowing Moroccan Muslims to take loans with interests for having a house to live in. This was considered as interference with Morocco’s religious authorities. Moroccan airliner company La RAM (Royal Air Maroc) was open to criticism because it banned its staff from praying during working hours.

So religion remains a hot issue in Morocco mainly because the Moroccan government aspires to make Morocco a free and open society, not under the grip of a particular religious grouping or party. Paradoxically by banning a newspaper claiming to incarnate the era of press freedom, which is rare in the majority of the Arab world, it opens the gate of criticism about its implementation of free speech.

As religion is the affair of the faithful and not the agenda of the government, it’s better for Moroccan press to deal with it cautiously. The Moroccans are generally sensitive about international issues like the situation in Iraq and Palestinian territories. It can be difficult to calm them down when their religion is attacked or talked about jokingly in public press although a category find no embarrassment in telling jokes about their religion. The death threat the two journalists from Nichane received is an example of what “blasphemy” can lead to in Morocco.

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Should Nichane Magazine be banned?
Yes
No
I don't know
pollcode.com free polls

2 comments:

Neil Steinberg said...

I am a newspaper columnist in Chicago who ends my daily column with a joke. I would like to print one of the controversial Nichane jokes or, if they are not printable, with an example of a Moroccan joke. Could you send me an example at nsteinberg@suntimes.com? Thank you. I will give you credit, or withhold your identity, as you prefer.

Neil Steinberg

UK Homeowner said...

Abdelilah,
an interesting post about the issue of press freedom and free speech in Morocco. Religion is a sensitive subject there clearly in a way that it hasn't been here for some years. It's worth remembering though that, in the UK for example, the last attempt at a Blasphemy trial was in the last half of the twentieth century - not that long ago really.

From what I hear and read about Morocco it does seem to be trying to be a forward looking country where there is a place for religion but it doesn't get to dictate to everyone. There will be steps forward and backward in this process I guess.