Sunday, 19 February 2012

Morocco bans Spain’s El Pais newspaper over royal cartoon


Morocco has banned the distribution of Thursday’s edition of Spain’s influential El Pais, as a cartoon published by the newspaper allegedly tarnished King Mohammed VI’s name, an official said. “The decision to ban (the paper) was made on the basis of article 29 of the press code” that protects the monarch, the senior communication ministry official told AFP on Saturday. “The caricature contains a deliberate intention to smear the (king’s) image to harm the king personally,” he added. The cartoon, which was picked up by a Moroccan website, accompanied an article by Spanish journalist Ignacio Cembrero, who knows Morocco well. Contacted by AFP, Cembrero said the Moroccan reaction surprised him as the small cartoon was “friendly and rather likeable”. It seemed to be the first time that a foreign publication was banned for the stated reasons since the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) came to power in Morocco in January, he added. So far Morocco has only banned weeklies that carried images of the Prophet Mohammed, or of God, which is forbidden under Muslim tradition. Earlier this month French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur fell into that category after printing an image of God. And last month the magazine was banned when a cover story on the Arab world included the supposed face of the Prophet Mohammed. Morocco also banned French weekly l’Express in January for publishing a 95-page dossier on Islam including a face meant to represent Mohammed’s.