Al Jazeera and RSF slam Morocco curbs
October 30th, 2010 - 13:11 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

Al Jazeera has denounced the suspension of the network’s operations in Morocco. In a statement today, Al Jazeera said that the closure of its bureau in the capital, Rabat, would not change the network’s editorial guidelines. “Al Jazeera is committed to an editorial policy based on the principal of providing alternate opinions,” the statement said. “Al Jazeera’s coverage of Moroccan issues has always been professional, balanced and accurate.” The network said it would continue its coverage to serve the interests of viewers in line with journalistic values.

The press accreditations of Al Jazeera’s staff in Morocco were withdrawn yesterday and the communications ministry said in a statement that the sanctions followed “numerous failures in following the rules of serious and responsible journalism”. A government official who declined to be named said the authorities took exception “to the way Al Jazeera handles the issues of Islamists and Western Sahara”.

The Moroccan statement, which was reported by the official MAP news agency, said Al Jazeera’s broadcasts had “seriously distorted Morocco’s image and manifestly damaged its interests, most notably its territorial integrity”. Al Jazeera had showed a “determination to only broadcast from our country negative facts and phenomena in a deliberate effort to minimise Morocco’s efforts in all aspects of development and to knowing belittle its achievements and progress on democracy”, the statement said.

Reporters without Borders (RSF) voiced surprise at the Moroccan curbs. “It’s a very surprising decision from the government, especially because there was no legal background. It’s just a very administrative and political decision,” Vincent Brossel of Reporters without Borders told Al Jazeera from Paris. He said that RSF “suspect that this decision is linked to the way your channel has been covering different issues, especially the Western Sahara, and I think it’s mainly because you open your microphone to all sides, and not only the government’s side. think it’s mainly because you are doing your job, which is quite unfair.”