In reporting on the recent uproar over the Danish cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad, Le Journal Hebdomadaire editor Aboubakr Jamaï did his usual thoughtful job. His Casablanca, Morocco-based weekly newspaper 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, Jamaï inked out the images in the photo. Yet protesters still gathered outside the paper's offices. It soon became clear to Jamaï that the demonstration was orchestrated not by aggrieved Muslims but by Moroccan authorities.
Since Jamaï started Le Journal in 1997 and its Arabic sister weekly Assahifa al-Ousbouiya a year later, he 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. 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," Jamaï told Time. "We are instituting debate, not feeding anarchy."
Authorities have temporarily shut down Le Journal twice. Now a libel case threatens more permanent closure. A Moroccan court awarded a staggering $300,000 in damages to a French researcher who sued Le Journal over an article that alleged his work looked like Moroccan government propaganda. A Moroccan prince offered to pay. But Jamaï says he'd prefer to force the regime to let the press alone or be exposed for silencing it.