Jailed Moroccan editor’s paper announces closure

Independent Moroccan daily Akhbar Al-Yaoum, a newspaper with a history of run-ins with the kingdom’s authorities, is to cease publishing due to financial woes, its management announced Monday.

The paper has suffered “persistent harassment through an advertising boycott” and has been “deprived” of emergency state funding available to other media during the coronavirus crisis, its management said on Facebook on Sunday.

Its editor-in-chief, Taoufiq Bouachrine, is in prison serving a 15-year jail sentence for human trafficking, abuse of power for sexual purposes, rape and attempted rape.

He has maintained his innocence throughout, calling the charges “fabricated” and politically motivated.

Bouachrine had faced repeated legal cases in the past for allegedly defaming officials. 

Editorial staff at the Arabic-language newspaper, which was founded in 2009, are contesting the management’s decision to close, which they describe as “unilateral”.

Management has not disclosed when the outlet will shut down, but its reporters told AFP the last edition was put out on Monday.

One journalist said he learnt of the paper’s closure through social media networks, describing it as a “terrible” end. 

The staff had already shrunk to 40, down from around 100 at the time of Bouachrine’s arrest in 2018.

Rights group Amnesty International in 2019 described Bouachrine’s imprisonment as a “matter of freedom of expression”.