World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


2010 - Aboubakr Jamaï

2010 - Aboubakr Jamaï

Article ID:

15915

Aboubakr Jamaï is the co-founder and former managing director of the weekly newspaper Le Journal Hebdomadaire that is considered the pioneer of the independent press in Morocco.

Le Journal was launched in 1997, at the end of the reign of King Hassan II, and its Arabic sister weekly Assahifa al-Ousbouiya was launched a year later. In 2000, the magazine was censored following an interview with Mohamed Abdelaziz, the leader of the Polisario Front. Shortly afterwards Le Journal was shut down after it ran an article about the involvement of the socialists, who had since joined the government, in the failed coup attempt of 1972.

Le Journal returned in 2001 as Le Journal Hebdomadaire, but after a successful first issue its advertising revenue virtually vanished overnight. According to Mr Jamaï, the royal palace exerted pressure on the country's business community to boycott the publication.

Le Journal established a reputation for being a leading and persistent critical voice in the Moroccan press. As the country moved towards a more open and democratic society, the publication's irreverent tone and stinging analysis sought to keep authorities in-check regarding their commitments to tackling corruption, transparency and human rights abuses.

Mr Jamaï has faced a constant struggle in publishing some of the region's finest independent journalism while dealing with a monarchy that, despite promises of reform, prefers to maintain control of the Moroccan media. Mr Jamaï's reports have thrown light on King Mohammed VI's business dealings and challenged government claims about economic progress. After terrorists struck Casablanca in May 2003, Le Journal brought together a blast survivor and the mother of a suicide bomber. "It is the concept of the agora," Mr Jamaï said. "We are instituting debate, not feeding anarchy."

In reporting on the uproar over the Danish cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad, Mr Jamaï did his usual thoughtful job. Le Journal Hebdomadaire published a special report, including a photo of a French newspaper that reproduced some of the drawings. So that Le Journal didn't further inflame passions, Mr Jamaï inked out the images in the photo. Yet protesters still gathered outside the paper's offices. It soon became clear to Mr Jamaï that the demonstration was orchestrated not by aggrieved Muslims but by Moroccan authorities.

On 26 January 2010, a Casablanca commercial appeals court ruled that Le Journal's publishing group, Trimedia, had fallen into bankruptcy. Bailiffs entered the newsmagazine's offices as the latest issue was being readied for press, seizing its assets and effectively turning staff out into the street.

Officially the closing of Le Journal was due to a towering debt: 1.3 million euros in unpaid taxes and social contributions, and a 270,000 euros fine for libel to Claude Moniquet, head of the Brussels-based European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center. The organisation had published a report on the disputed Western Sahara that Le Journal claimed closely reflected the official Moroccan government position. In September 2009, the decision to fine Le Journal had been upheld by the Moroccan Supreme Court and effectively condemned the publication to financial ruin.

Mr Jamaï claimed that Trimedia could have paid creditors "had the authorities refrained from regularly ordering advertisers to boycott the publication." Mr Jamaï and others expressed surprise at the unusual speed with which the Moroccan courts suddenly acted on the paper's legal problems, culminating in the media group behind Le Journal being declared bankrupt.

"There were many other ways to deal with the situation, said Ahmed Benchemsi, director of TelQuel, another independent weekly newspaper. "Le Journal was silenced for political reasons." Benchemsi had no difficulty admitting that his main competitor was the "pioneer" of the independent press in Morocco. "Le Journal was the first to push the 'red lines,'" he said. "It paved the way for all the others. Its closure is just the latest sign of the deterioration of the media environment in Morocco."

Most recently, Mr Jamaï taught courses on political Islam and politics in the Middle East at the University of San Diego.

Author

Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2012-12-04 17:13

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Author

Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2011-07-07 12:16

Aboubakr Jamaï, the co-founder and former managing director of the weekly newspaper Le Journal Hebdomadaire and a pioneer of the independent press in Morocco, has been presented the 2010 Gebran Tueni Award in a ceremony in Beirut, Lebanon.

Author

Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2011-04-13 23:00

Aboubakr Jamaï, the co-founder and former managing director of the weekly newspaper Le Journal Hebdomadaire and a pioneer of the independent press in Morocco, has been awarded the 2010 Gebran Tueni Award, the annual prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) that honours an editor or publisher from the Arab region.

Author

Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2010-12-21 11:16