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 ...

By , Middle East editor at Foreign Policy from 2013-2018.
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.

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.

David Kenner was Middle East editor at Foreign Policy from 2013-2018.

More from Foreign Policy

Children are hooked up to IV drips on the stairs at a children's hospital in Beijing.
Children are hooked up to IV drips on the stairs at a children's hospital in Beijing.

Chinese Hospitals Are Housing Another Deadly Outbreak

Authorities are covering up the spread of antibiotic-resistant pneumonia.

Henry Kissinger during an interview in Washington in August 1980.
Henry Kissinger during an interview in Washington in August 1980.

Henry Kissinger, Colossus on the World Stage

The late statesman was a master of realpolitik—whom some regarded as a war criminal.

A Ukrainian soldier in helmet and fatigues holds a cell phone and looks up at the night sky as an explosion lights up the horizon behind him.
A Ukrainian soldier in helmet and fatigues holds a cell phone and looks up at the night sky as an explosion lights up the horizon behind him.

The West’s False Choice in Ukraine

The crossroads is not between war and compromise, but between victory and defeat.

Illustrated portraits of Reps. MIke Gallagher, right, and Raja Krishnamoorthi
Illustrated portraits of Reps. MIke Gallagher, right, and Raja Krishnamoorthi

The Masterminds

Washington wants to get tough on China, and the leaders of the House China Committee are in the driver’s seat.