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Sunday, 10 October 2010

Morocco: top magazine closes due to censorship

Morocco's topselling Arabic language weekly 'Nichane', which had taken up in the past taboo subjects like monarchy and Islam, closed shop last week blaming "the highest circles of power" for organising a boycott of advertisers.
The trouble for the magazine began last year after Nichane, its French-language sister publication TelQuel and France's Le Monde newspaper conducted an opinion poll on the monarchy. The poll, which found that King Mohammed VI had done a good overall job in the first decade of his reign but needed to do more to reduce poverty, was swiftly censored. About 100,000 copies of the magazine were destroyed, and the particular edition of Le Monde was banned from selling in Morocco. The reason given was that the monarchy "cannot be the object of debate even through a poll".
The royal holding company Omnium Nord-Africain Group was the first to boycott Nichane (which means "straighforward" or "direct"), followed by state-owned and quasi-state businesses close to the government. The boycott was brazen. After the revenues dipped to 80 percent, the shareholders decided it was time to take a call. They met last week and decided to close down the magazine, the TelQuel group said in a statement later.
TelQuel, meanwhile, will continue to publish. Since most of its French-language advertisers are based outside of Morocco, it does not face any immediate danger.

Restrictions to press freedom still exist.
Two prominent magazines are blocked.

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