Saturday, September 28, 2013

An Insult to Camels

In September 2002, parliamentary elections took place in Algeria resulting in the formation of a new government. The King retained powers to appoint key ministers, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice. Thus, the illusion of a democracy began to take shape in the northwestern corner of the Sahara Desert.

Moroccan journalist, Ali Lmrabet, is the general manager of Demain, a weekly satirical magazine, and a correspondent of the French media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres. In an October issue of Demain, he published an article about the possible sale of a royal palace to foreign investors.

In November, Lmrabet was arrested and prosecuted for ”diffusing false information in breach of peace or likely to be a breach of peace.” According to the prosecutor, Lmrabet was undermining the authority of the state. He was sentenced to four months in prison and any future publication of Demain was banned.

Ten days later, the prosecutor appealed the case, seeking a more severe sentence.

On May 22, the First Appeal Court of Rabat sentenced Lmrabet to four years in prison and also levied a fine equivalent to $2,000 US dollars. He was immediately sent to prison after the sentence was handed down.

On May 29, his royal majesty King Mohammed VI made a speech to his nation on Moroccan TV, announcing an end to leniency in dealing with those who “take advantage of democracy.” He claimed that some citizens had been misusing the freedom of opinion. He insisted, “exercising one’s rights and freedoms entails necessarily that the duties and obligations inherently attached to citizenship be fulfilled.”

In other words, one is free to express an opinion as long as that opinion reflects the opinion of those in power.

He ended his speech by claiming that Moroccans “will find me, as their first servant, in the front line, repelling anyone who attempts to pull the country backward.”

What a great guy – a servant of the people fighting on the front line to preserve the obligation of the people to speak favorably of his rule.

In the interest of humanity and for the sake my own sanity (such as it is), please allow me to address your royal majesty with a few observations:

1) A democracy is a government where the supreme power is invested in the people and exercised by them through a system of representation usually involving periodic freely held elections. If you are a king in a democracy it is your duty to pose for currency and to attend ribbon-cutting ceremonies. It is not your duty to repel anyone who is pulling your country backward. If anyone is pulling your country backward it is you.

2) It is not possible to use democracy to undermine the state authority. The democracy itself is the state authority. Suppressing the freedom of speech and freedom of the press undermines a democracy. It may make the state authority stronger but destroys any semblance of rule by the people.

3) A journalist is simply a person reporting the news, perhaps even satirically at times. To confine a journalist in a cement box to rot for four years for doing his job, or even expressing an opinion, is outrageous. Life is difficult enough without being under the thumb of barbaric rulers with no concept of common decency.

4) You are a disgusting human being. You should be chained to a heavy object outside your palace gate where children can toss peanuts at you. Comparing you to a pile of camel dung would be an insult to camels.

5) If there is any justice on this Orb of Wounded Souls there will come a time in every person’s existence, be it here or in another dimension, where they shall reap what they have sown.

Morocco is a wonderful place if you want to get a taste of what life was like in 1400. Needless to say, I won’t be travelling there soon. I prefer to stay here in Arkansas where it’s about 1959 these days.

Quote for the Day -- “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear." Harry S. Truman

Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where freedom of speech is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

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