Hundreds of Moroccan journalists and human rights activists protested on Thursday against the trial of fellow journalists and a parliamentarian from the Democratic Labour Confederation on charges of publishing information deemed confidential. The accused all appeared before the Court of First Instance in Rabat for publishing information from a parliamentary fact-finding commission on the huge deficit in the country's pension fund last month.
The National Press Union in Morocco, which organised the protest, rejected the trial, stressing that the journalists were only doing their duty and have a right to publish such information of obvious public interest. Those charged work for more than one newspaper and non-governmental websites. The Union called for the trial to be halted immediately and for freedom of expression and freedom to publish news to be guaranteed.
The lawsuit against the journalists and lawmaker was filed by Chairman of the Council of Counsellors, Abdel Hakim Bin Shammas. Earlier this month, the Council passed a bill on the right of access to information. The bill, submitted by the government nearly a year and a half ago, aims to review the constitutional provisions relating to the protection of freedoms and to guarantee the right of access to information, especially concerning governmental institutions.
The government says the bill aims to enhance people's confidence in government institutions and bring services closer to citizens. However, many researchers and experts say that it will prevent ordinary people and journalists from requesting information concerning national defence, state security, private individuals' lives, or information regarding the State's foreign relations or influencing the course of judicial events.