Moroccan authorities have confiscated two-days worth of the French newspaper Le Monde over a cartoon protesting the sentence of a Moroccan cartoonist accused of anti-Semitism.
The cartoon by French cartoonist Plantu, which appeared in the Oct. 22 issue of Le Monde, shows a hand reaching out of the Moroccan national flag, drawing a person with his tongue out and a clown’s nose. The caption reads, “Trial in Morocco against the caricaturist Khalid Gueddar who dares to draw the Moroccan royal family.”
In the October 23 issue, Le Monde published the original cartoon by Moroccan cartoonist Khalid Gueddar that the government claims was an attack on the royal family.
Gueddar’s cartoon, which appeared in the daily paper Akhbar al Youm, shows King Mohammed’s cousin, Prince Moulay Ismail, celebrating his wedding to a German woman. It’s “Moulay Ismail on his nuptial truss,” says a line of the cartoon in Arabic.
The government claims the cartoon is anti-Semitic for the way it portrays the Moroccan star as a Star of David. Both Gueddar and Taoufik Bouachrine, the publisher of Akhbar al Youm, were indicted for insulting the royal family.
On Sept. 28, the Interior Ministry ordered the paper silenced, shuttered its offices in Casablanca, and posted policemen at its entrance to prevent any of the newspaper’s 70 employees from reaching their desks.
Bouachrine said he was concerned that the authorities shut down the paper’s headquarters without any court decision.
“It is the first time the authorities closed the offices of a newspaper since the 1960s,” he told Reuters. “That worries us all as the government wants to send a strong message that the authorities can do what they want without any respect to the law.”
According to Reuters, the editor and two journalists from Arabic language weekly Al Michaal will be sentenced this week for what the government called false information after they published articles about King Mohammed’s health last month.
The editor and a reporter at daily Al Jarida al Oula are also being tried for a report on the king’s health.
“What is happening with the press is serious, very serious and it calls into question the future of democracy of our country,” wrote Ahmed Benchemsi in an editorial at his weekly French-language Telquel.