DUBAI, (AFP) — Al-Jazeera condemned on Saturday a decision by Morocco to suspend the pan-Arab television network’s operations in the northern African country, saying the move would not affect its editorial line.
Morocco’s government said Friday it suspended the Qatar-based satellite channel’s operations and withdrew accreditation for its staff after “numerous failures” that went against the “rules of serious and responsible journalism.”
“Al-Jazeera has denounced the suspension of the network’s operations in Morocco,” the network said on its English-language website, citing an Al-Jazeera statement.
“The closure of its bureau in the capital, Rabat, would not change the network’s editorial guidelines,” it said.
“Al-Jazeera assured that its coverage of Morocco was always based on professionalism, balance and accuracy, and said it would continue its coverage to serve the interests of viewers in line with journalistic values.”
Communications Minister Khalid Naciri said Friday that action was taken against Al-Jazeera because its “refusal to be objective and impartial systematically tarnishes Morocco’s image.
“We reproach this channel for ignoring the main principles and transmitting a caricature of Moroccan reality,” he told AFP.
A government official who declined to be named said the authorities took exception “to the way Al-Jazeera handles the issues of Islamists and Western Sahara.”
More than 2,000 Islamists have been arrested and sentenced in Morocco since the Casablanca bombings of May 16, 2003, when more than 40 people were killed in an attack by Islamist extremists.
A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco after settlers withdrew in 1975. The move was violently opposed by separatist Polisario guerrillas until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.