A conflict developed between the world famous influential French newspaper Le Monde and the Moroccan Royal Family. Moroccan law-enforcement agencies confiscated circulations of two newspaper issues for October 22 and 23. The grounds for the confiscation were offensive cartoons of the Royal Family printed on the front page.
The October 22 issue had a picture of a five-point start of a hand reaching out of the Moroccan national flag, drawing a person with his tongue out and a clown’s nose. The caption says: "Trial in Morocco against the caricaturist Khalid Gueddar who dears to draw the Moroccan royal family."
The October 23 edition went even further and ran the Gueddar cartoon he is being charged for. The original cartoon was published on September 27 in the local independent newspaper Akhbar Al Youm. The cartoon depicted the wedding of Prince Moulay Ismail, a cousin of King Mohammed VI, to a German citizen. Gueddar assumed that the bride had Jewish origins and drew the Star of David next to the Moroccan flag.
The officials reacted immediately. They promised that the chief editor of the newspapers and the artist would be severely prosecuted. They lived up to their promise and banned distribution of the newspaper.
The officials stated that the cartoon not only "lacked respect for the royal family," but was also an act of outrageous anti-Semitism, libel, and insult towards the country’s national symbols.
Le Monde decided to support their fellow Moroccan journalists and incurred punishment itself. Moroccan officials stated that they "will never accept, on grounds of freedom of expression, a systematic attack on national symbols."
This is not the first time such an incident happened. Currently, ten similar cases are being reviewed by court, including the Moroccan weekly magazines Neeshan and TelQuel, and French Le Monde.
These magazines got in trouble for running the results of a social opinion poll regarding Morocco’s Royal Family. Although 91 percent of the population had positive comments about the king, all issues were confiscated and destroyed.
Maybe it was caused by the fact that some of the participants did say that the king was authoritarian, and some expressed their frustration with the ways the officials fought poverty and gave freedom to women.
Pravda.ru interviewed Sergey Golubev, an expert of Asian and African countries. He shared his opinion on the latest incident and gave his forecast for the prospective of Moroccan-French relationship.
“I do not see anything surprising about the incident. The French society, including mass media, is traditionally against monarchic regimes and uses every chance to ridicule them.
Morocco is the country with relatively mild legislation compared to other Asian and African countries. If something similar happened with the Saudi Royal Family, the ones who insulted them would have been subjected to a much stricter punishment, for example, lengthy imprisonment.
However, newspapers try to avoid mentioning the Saudi Royal Family. They are not willing to bring any negativity into their country’s relationship with Riyadh which has the largest supply of oil on the planet. Morocco cannot boast oil supplies, and French newspapers take advantage of it.
Speaking about this particular incident, one should remember that people in general and representatives of the Royal Family in particular, have a right for privacy. Invasion of this privacy is unacceptable.
I do not think that strict measures towards the two circulations of Le Monde will cause any serious tension between Morocco and France. The economic relations between these two countries are much more important than a banal newspaper scandal.”