(Updates with official comment)
By Souhail Karam
RABAT Oct 5 The Moroccan government said on
Friday it was withdrawing the accreditation of an Agence
France-Presse (AFP) correspondent, accusing him of casting doubt
on the monarchy's neutrality in an election.
In a statement carried by state media, the government
accused Omar Brouksy of "unprofessional" reporting on Thursday's
vote in Tangier, a re-run after a parliamentary election last
"AFP conveyed allegations that involved the monarchy in this
election, which took place in a transparent environment, thereby
undermining its neutrality and role as arbitrator that sits
above any electoral competition between political parties," it
A senior government official said AFP had published a story
on election day that said the poll in Tangier pitted moderate
Islamists of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) against
"candidates close to the monarchy".
"We consider this to be a serious professional error ... to
falsely involve the monarchy in an election race on the day it
was taking place. It sends a confusing message to voters," the
AFP Global News Director Philippe Massonnet said: "The
report in question had no motive other than to inform and
provide context, with no intention of harming anyone
whatsoever." He said AFP's Rabat bureau had "the full confidence
of the agency's management".
The French Foreign Ministry said France was in touch with
Moroccan authorities over the issue.
In December, the PJD became the first Islamist party to lead
a Moroccan government after winning a parliamentary election
that King Mohammed had brought forward to prevent any spillover
from the Arab Spring uprisings. It formed a coalition government
with three other parties.
The election results for Tangier were scrapped after the PJD
was accused of using religious symbols during its campaign. The
poll was re-run on Thursday, and preliminary results had the PJD
winning two of the three seats.
The PJD's closest rival in Tangier is the secular
Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), set up in 2008 by Fouad
Ali Himma to counter the rise of Islamist parties. Himma is now
an adviser to King Mohammed.
The official said AFP had later changed the wording of its
report to say the candidates were from PAM, but the government
had already taken the decision to punish the news agency.
Himma, a former schoolfriend of the king, is regarded as the
most influential figure after the monarch and a pillar of the
Makhzen, a secretive court elite that has nominated some
officials and set major policies.
He quit PAM in May 2011 at the height of mass protests
demanding political reform. After PJD's election win, King
Mohammed appointed Himma as his adviser.
Morocco is ranked 138th in the 2011-2012 global Press
Freedom Index of countries compiled by Reporters Sans
Frontieres. The state controls television, and outspoken
publications have been forced to close, mostly by what they call
political pressure on advertisers.
Brouksy, a Moroccan national, was manhandled and slightly
injured by police last month as he covered a pro-democracy
protest in Rabat.
The government this week appointed a committee to draft a
new media bill meant to give the press greater freedom.
(Reporting by Souhail Karam; editing by Andrew Roche and Janet