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Morocco detains, summons media workers after publisher held

Taoufiq Bouachrine was arrested during police raid on his newspaper, Akhbar al-Yaoum
Reporters Without Borders ranked Morocco 133rd out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index last year

Moroccan police on Saturday detained a journalist and summoned for questioning two employees from an independent media group, a day after its outspoken publisher was detained, his newspaper said. 

Prominent publisher and journalist Taoufiq Bouachrine, known for editorials critical of authorities in the North African country, was arrested Friday during a raid by 20 plainclothed policemen on the Akhbar al-Yaoum daily in Casablanca.

The authorities have not given the reason for his detention. Bouachrine, 49, has faced repeated legal cases in the past for allegedly defaming officials.

Employee Mounir Abou Al Maali said about 20 policemen in civilian clothes entered the offices of the newspaper and searched it.

"They took pictures and confiscated the key" to the office, he said.

On Saturday, the newspaper said journalist Ibtissam Machkour, the head of women's news site Soltana, was detained by police and two employees from Akhbar al-Yaoum were also summoned for questioning.

In 2009, Bouachrine and Akhbar al-Yaoum cartoonist Khalid Gueddar were each given a four-year suspended jail sentence following two separate trials over a cartoon about a wedding, which was deemed offensive to Morocco's royal family.

The pair was also ordered to pay heavy fines and damages, while the paper was shut down.

Bouachrine has also faced lawsuits from government ministers who have accused him of defamation.

And in June 2010, Bouachrine was sentenced to six months for fraud relating to a property deal.

A new press code in Morocco since 2016 no longer includes prison sentences, but reporters continue to be tried under the penal code, New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch says.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Morocco 133rd out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index last year.

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