RABAT, Morocco – A top Moroccan newspaper editor, convicted and jailed under the penal code for his writings, was freed Saturday after serving a year in prison.
Rachid Nini, editor of the country's most popular daily, al-Massae, was convicted for "trying to discredit and influence a court and publishing information on crimes that haven't been proven." The charges stemmed from his vitriolic newspaper columns that attacked powerful members of society.
"I denounce my imprisonment and conviction under the penal code, and I hope I am the last journalist to be tried under it," he said. He also thanked the pro-democracy February 20 movement for supporting his case, despite having once written quite negatively about the group.
The trial and conviction of Nini in June outraged Moroccan journalists because it was conducted under the criminal code rather than the media law, and was seen as an attack on freedom of expression. The media law does not allow for the imprisonment of journalists.
An international media watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists, described in its 2010 report a rise in harassment of local media in Morocco over the last few years. It said there was a pattern of court cases against journalists and newspapers publishing material the government disagrees with. The media also have been targeted by officially sanctioned advertising boycotts.
Two leading weeklies were forced to close in 2010 and a critical daily moved online.