14 June 2007
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Moroccan Journalist Wins Press Freedom Award

"Morocco has made major advances in terms of freedom of speech."

The Moroccan journalist Ahmed Reda Benchemsi recently won the Samir Kassir Award for Press Freedom thanks to an article addressing a sensitive topic: the cult of personality around the king of Morocco.

Well-known for his audacious pen, Ahmed Reda Benchemsi has been named winner in the Journalist category of the annual Samir Kassir award for Press Freedom. This prize, accompanied by a cash award of 15,000 euros, was launched in 2006 in memory of the Lebanese-Palestinian journalist assassinated on 2 June 2005.

Organised by the Delegation of the European Commission and the Kassir Foundation, the competition rewarded the 33-year-old Moroccan journalist for an article on King Mohamed VI entitled "The cult of personality." Published on 29 July 2006 in the French-language weekly TelQuel, which was founded by Benchemsi in 2001, the award-winning article surprisingly provoked no reactions in Morocco's upper circles at the time. In the past, the authors of stories about the royal family have not always been left unmolested.

"To my (relative) astonishment, the article made no particular waves on its publication last summer... other than the telephone calls and SMS messages that I received congratulating me on my 'audacity,'" Benchemsi told APN. "Apparently there was nothing to congratulate me on. Nobody in high places criticised me for anything and TelQuel's relations with the authorities have remained fairly stable ever since: no law suits and no upset reactions... Morocco must have made major advances in terms of freedom of speech. So much the better!" said the young director of the TelQuel group, which besides Telquel also publishes the magazine Nichane (in Arabic).

A former Morocco correspondent for the Jeune Afrique group, Benchemsi had already distinguished himself by winning the Lorenzo Natali prize in 2004 in the Arab world category. The prize rewards journalists that promote human rights, democracy and development.

Read the award-winning article at: