Investigative Journalist Youssef Jajili is urgently seeking the help of the international press and human rights organizations to shed light on his case to prevent the Moroccan courts from sentencing him to time in a harsh prison and imposing hefty fines that could force the closure of his award-winning independent weekly investigative magazine. Jajili, 29, has been charged with criminal defamation in response to bold journalism that exposes corruption and human rights abuses within the Moroccan government. Immediate action is required as Jajili’s trial is set to start on Monday, January 28, 2013.
Reporters Without Borders, The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), The International Freedom of Expression Exchange network (IFEX) , and The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounced the Moroccan government’s criminal defamation case against Jajili as an ‘intimidation tactic’ to silence the independent press. “These defamation charges against Youssef Jajili should be dropped immediately,” said the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Journalists should be able to serve as watchdogs of the government without fearing intimidation, detention, or prison time.”
Jajili is the Editor-in-Chief of Alaan Magazine, a publication he founded in April 2012 that courageously calls out Moroccan authorities for freedom of speech and human rights violations. “The current charges against me are politicized and are being used to try to silence my journalism and my magazine,” says Jajili who won Morocco’s prestigious National Press Award in 2011. “I am not a criminal. I am a journalist who has done nothing but fulfill my ultimate duty which is to serve as a watchdog on the government and expose corruption, truth.”
The criminal defamation charges stem from a June 2012 article Jajili published about Abdelkader Amara, a Justice and Development minister in Morocco’s current Islamic government. Jajili reported Amara used taxpayer funds to purchase a private meal in his hotel room worth more than 900 Euros while on a taxpayer-funded trip outside the country. Jajili also reported that champagne was ordered during the meal which was embarrassing to Amara because the politician had campaigned to ban alcohol sales in Morocco and because Islamic law forbids Muslims from drinking alcohol. Amara accused Jajili of fabricating the report and vowed to seek revenge against Jajili on his facebook page. Jajili published Amara’s hotel bill which showed the charges for the meal and alcoholic beverages under Amara’s name. You can view a pdf version Jajili’s article in it’s entirety on this site.
It is noted, your sincere understanding of the needs of your countrymen. And with further respect, we attempt to appeal to you regarding the circumstance of a young, award-winning Moroccan journalist, Youssef Jajili.
A Moroccan citizen, Youssef Jajili, may be imprisoned by prosecution according to Constitutional Law of Morocco. He is charged by speculation of intent—and falsely so. The injustice, perhaps inadvertent, wrong in its entirety, or as simply a negative response to transitions naturally made in the progress of a great society warrants further review as it threatens freedom of expression in Morocco.
Specifically, an article written by Youssef Jajili supported by facts, has reportedly offended the Minister Abdelkader Amara, and as a result Jajili has been indicted for criminal defamation. Your support for Jajili in clarifying the distinctions within the article in which the claim of defamation has been improperly applied and can be argued against, due to inaccurate interpretation, is requested.
As it appears, the unusual nature of the charges are an extreme response and contrary to the legitimacy of your efforts for the enforcement of the rule of law in a remarkable country. These charges may detract from your reforms and the vision that you have espoused.
We appeal to you on this matter to please drop the criminal defamation charges against Youssef Jajili.