Paris, France, and Darmstadt, Germany, 16 June 2010.
WAN-IFRA and the World Editor's Forum have condemned a six-month jail sentence handed down to Moroccan journalist and editor, Taoufik Bouachrine, and have called on Moroccan authorities to overturn the sentence.
The Managing Director of the Akhbar Al-Youm Al-Maghribya daily, well-known for his defence of press freedom, was sentenced on 10 June for an affair related to a property purchase. The case appears to be politically motivated.
The verdict came just days after Mr Bouachrine had spoken at the WAN-IFRA Arab Free Press Forum in Beirut, during which he strongly criticized Arab leaders for "wanting a seat at the editing table."
Mr Bouachrine is an outspoken critic of press freedom violations and had previously fallen foul of Moroccan justice in 2009 after publishing cartoons judged offensive to the royal family. He was handed a three-year suspended sentence and fined 270,000 Euros.
In the case leading to the recent jail sentence, Mr Bouachrine was accused of failing to honour payments for a villa he bought in 2007. The case had already been heard before the civil courts in 2007 and 2008, with the journalist winning on both occasions, but in this instance the judge refused to hear the testimony of the key witness in Mr Bouachrine's defence.
Despite the testimony of the solicitor that dealt with the house sale, who confirmed the transaction to have been conducted lawfully, judgement went against Mr Bouachrine, who expressed his conviction that he was paying the price for the editorial line of his newspaper.
Mr Bouachrine is appealing the decision.
In a statement, WAN-IFRA condemned the apparent political motivation behind the sentencing and called on the Moroccan authorities to overturn the decision.
WAN-IFRA is the global organisation for the world's newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe.
Inquiries to: Larry Kilman, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, WAN-IFRA, 7 rue Geoffroy St Hilaire, 75005 Paris, France. Tel: +33 6 10 28 97 36. E-mail: email@example.com.