After long jail term, Moroccan journalist hit by heavy damages award

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Morocco’s judicial harassment of the journalist Taoufik Bouachrine, who was ordered to pay 1.4 million dirhams (130,000 euros) in libel damages to two government ministers on appeal yesterday. Last month, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison on sexual assault charges.The publisher of the Arabic-language daily Akhbar al-Youm, Bouachrine was originally ordered to pay 450,000 dirhams (45,000 euros) in damages for claiming that the agriculture and economy ministers changed an article in the 2016 finance law for their own personal benefit. Yesterday’s ruling tripled the amount. The ministers filed the suit in 2015.

“We condemn the judicial harassment to which Taoufik Bouachrine is being subjected,” RSF said. “The amount of damages he has been ordered to pay is out of all proportion and shows that the Moroccan authorities are bent on throttling Akhbar al Yaoum and maintaining the pressure on Bouachrine.”

Bouachrine is the subject of other prosecutions including the sexual assault case in which he was given the 12-year sentence in November. He was also ordered to pay each of the eight victims compensation ranging from 100,000 to 500,000 dirhams (10,000 to 50,000 euros).

Bouachrine has always denied the assault allegations and, as RSF noted last month, many doubts surround the verdict.

Morocco is ranked 135th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.