Journalists get jail terms for breaching “professional secrecy” in Morocco

Four journalists and a Moroccan parliamentarian on Wednesday each received a six month suspended jail term and were fined over the publication of content deemed confidential.

The journalists were tried for publishing excerpts of a parliamentary commission’s debates over a huge deficit at the national pension fund in late 2016.

A deputy and member of the CDT labour union received the same penalty for “breach of professional secrecy” for providing them information on these debates.

“This is a verdict against freedom of expression,” Mohamed Aheddad, one of the convicted journalists, told AFP shortly after the verdict was delivered at the Rabat court of first instance.

“We have been convicted for publishing accurate information… We will appeal because we are convinced of our innocence,” said the journalist of the Arabic-language daily Al-Massae.

They were each also fined 10,000 dirhams ($1,030, 920 euros).

“This verdict is unfair and is based on nothing,” parliamentarian Abdelhak Hissan said, adding the journalists were “only doing their job”.

The prosecution had sought prison sentences of between one and five years.

A new press code in Morocco since 2016 no longer includes prison sentences, but reporters continue to be tried under the penal code.

The country’s national press union has expressed concerns about an increase in legal cases against journalists.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Morocco 135th out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index last year.

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