Kings don't get sick. That's the message that thick-headed Moroccan journalists just can't seem to get. Last week a court in Rabat ordered the editor of the weekly al-Michaal newspaper imprisoned for a year for publishing articles questioning the health of King Mohamed VI.
Police stormed the Casablanca office of al-Michaal and hauled away its editor, Driss Chahtan. Prison terms were also handed down to two offending journalists, Rachid Mahameed and Mostafa Hiran, who wrote a series of articles in September claiming that the king might be sicker than the government is letting on.
The court decision follows a series of reported investigations by Moroccan authorities of independent media outlets which are critical of Morocco's royal family. Last month two editors of the independent daily al-Jarida al-Oula were detained and interrogated also for publishing articles that questioned the political motivations behind what appears to be a conspiracy to conceal the health of the king.
He's only 46, what could be wrong with him? (He suffered a reportedly severe gastrointestinal infection in August and had to spend a week in convalescence. Last year rumors surfaced that he took a secret trip to France for surgery of an unknown nature. The exact cause of his father's death was never investigated. Denying it all just makes the whole Moroccan government look ill. Whoops, did I say all that out loud?)
In general, Morocco's judiciary has not been kind to Morocco's media. This past summer a court upheld a ruling in the case of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi versus three Moroccan papers, and ordered the publications--which had published articles critical of Qaddafi--to pay punitive damages amounting to one million dirhams (roughly $125,000) to Muammar himself.
Qaddafi reportedly spent the money on a new sound system for his rocket car.