Here’s looking at you, King

By Branko Brkic 1 October 2009

The first rule of the king of Morocco: don't disrespect the king of Morocco.

A Casablanca daily newspaper, Akhbar al-Youm, has been closed by the Moroccan government for “not respecting” the family of King Mohammed VI. In flagrant breach of a legal article that requires journalists to exhibit due deference to the king and his relatives, the newspaper published a caricature of the wedding of a cousin of Mohammed VI. Police shut down the offices of the newspaper on Tuesday, subjecting its director Taoufiq Bouachrine to hours of interrogation.

While newswire reports are unclear as to the exact meaning of the caricature, it is known that the Star of David, the emblem on the Israeli national flag and a global symbol of Judaism, was used in place of the star on the Moroccan flag. A statement issued on Monday by the Moroccan Interior Ministry indicated that the government and the king were not amused.

“In addition to tendentiously using the national flag, the cartoon undermines a symbol of the Nation by insulting the emblem of the Kingdom,” the statement said, adding that “the use of the Star of David in the cartoon raises many questions on the insinuations of the people behind it and suggests flagrant anti-Semitic penchants.”

Whatever the Moroccan Interior Ministry is in fact getting at, it’s apparent that freedom of expression remains a faraway dream in one of the last two African countries with an absolutist monarch (the other, by the way, is Swaziland).

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Agence Maghreb Arabe Press



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