Requiem for Le Journal Hebdomadaire

The slow death of one of Morocco’s sole independent publications, Le Journal Hebdomadaire, came to its inevitable conclusion this past week. The proximate cause for the magazine’s closure was financial: A Moroccan court declared the magazine’s publisher’s bankrupt, and seized its assets on Wednesday. But the underlying reason for the magazine’s end was political: It ...

ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images
ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images
ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

The slow death of one of Morocco's sole independent publications, Le Journal Hebdomadaire, came to its inevitable conclusion this past week. The proximate cause for the magazine's closure was financial: A Moroccan court declared the magazine's publisher's bankrupt, and seized its assets on Wednesday. But the underlying reason for the magazine's end was political: It had been one of the few Moroccan publications that dared to touch some of the country's most taboo subjects, from criticizing the monarchy to the issue of the country's over the Western Sahara. The magazine's co-founder, Aboubakr Jamaï, contends that his finances were crippled by the Moroccan government's pressure on advertisers to boycott the publication.  Jamaï's finances have been in disarray since a Moroccan court ruled against him in a defamation case in 2006, which ordered him to pay a punitive judgment of $354,000.

Aida Alami, a (former) journalist at the magazine, wrote an extraordinary account of its last days -- and unique place in Morocco's public sphere -- for the Huffington Post. To quote her directly:

Even if "Le Journal Hebdomadaire," is something that will be talked about in the past, no one can deny what it has done for the country. Many people have called us traitors because we were too critical. I think it's the opposite, we are all people who loved their country enough to never sell out. We gave our readers the best we could and kept them informed like no other news team.

The slow death of one of Morocco’s sole independent publications, Le Journal Hebdomadaire, came to its inevitable conclusion this past week. The proximate cause for the magazine’s closure was financial: A Moroccan court declared the magazine’s publisher’s bankrupt, and seized its assets on Wednesday. But the underlying reason for the magazine’s end was political: It had been one of the few Moroccan publications that dared to touch some of the country’s most taboo subjects, from criticizing the monarchy to the issue of the country’s over the Western Sahara. The magazine’s co-founder, Aboubakr Jamaï, contends that his finances were crippled by the Moroccan government’s pressure on advertisers to boycott the publication.  Jamaï’s finances have been in disarray since a Moroccan court ruled against him in a defamation case in 2006, which ordered him to pay a punitive judgment of $354,000.

Aida Alami, a (former) journalist at the magazine, wrote an extraordinary account of its last days — and unique place in Morocco’s public sphere — for the Huffington Post. To quote her directly:

Even if "Le Journal Hebdomadaire," is something that will be talked about in the past, no one can deny what it has done for the country. Many people have called us traitors because we were too critical. I think it’s the opposite, we are all people who loved their country enough to never sell out. We gave our readers the best we could and kept them informed like no other news team.

I spoke with Ms. Alami yesterday to get more details about the closing of her newspaper. We had what was, frankly, a depressing conversation about the state of the free press in Morocco. Alami will still be a journalist — just not for one of Le Journal’s tamer competitors. "There is nowhere I could work within the Moroccan press," she said.

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