Ali Lmrabet by Siobhan Dowd

Siobhan Dowd

Ali Lmrabet

 

MOROCCO, SINCE IT ceased to be a French protectorate, has boasted three kings. The longest serving of these, Hassan II, ruled the country for thirty-eight years, up until 1999. For most of this time, freedom of expression was not a priority. PEN, the writers' association, followed the cases of several important literary figures (Abdelkader Chaoui and Abraham Serfaty spring to mind), who languished behind bars for many years before they were finally released. However, towards the end of King Hassan's life, there was a thaw. Gradually the press became less fettered; cases against writers dropped off; human-rights groups found grounds for optimism. Hopes surged when King Mohammed V1 succeeded his father. In a television address shortly after King Hassan's death, he pledged that he would institute a constitutional monarchy, allow political pluralism, and foster democratic freedoms.

This was followed by specific promises to protect freedom of expression. He described the press as 'one of the pillars of our plan for a modernised, democratic society'. Despite these words, the number of actions against journalists and writers has, unfortunately, risen again. A new anti-terrorism law, passed in May

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