Morocco clamps down on media freedom

Morocco announced on Friday that it had suspended the operations of Al Jazeera in its territory over what it called 'unfair reporting'.

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Morocco announced on Friday that it had suspended the operations of the Qatar-based news network Al Jazeera in its territory over what it called "unfair reporting", said the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial.

Iraq had taken a similar decision as a result of the network's coverage of the US attacks on Fallujah. Iraq's decision at the time covered up the widespread killings and torture in the country. But, for Morocco, a country that enjoys a higher level of security, and has always shown leniency towards the media, the decision is harder to understand.

The Moroccan communication ministry stated that Al Jazeera violated journalistic standards for accuracy and objectivity.

The main issue that irritated Moroccan authorities is the network's coverage of torture in Moroccan prisons and of course, the Sahara issue - coverage that the official statement described as "harmful to Morocco's interests and territorial unity".

Undoubtedly, freedom of expression has known better days in Morocco. The margin of freedom is narrowing; it is natural that the news network would be affected by this unprecedented climate in a country that has always boasted of democracy and media openness.

The suspension decision will surely affect Al Jazeera, but not as much as the Moroccan authorities.

Al Qa'eda shifts focus to a troubled France

Whether Osama bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan, Afghanistan or even in New York or London isn't the main issue. The issue is that he still holds the power to threaten the West, observed columnist Mazen Hammad in an article for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

His most recent recording was different in that it was aimed at France in particular.

Bin Laden chose the timing of his message to coincide with some of Nicolas Sarkozy's darkest moments as millions of French are taking to the streets every day.

The timing proves bin Laden's political malice. It was brief but powerful and expressed his desire to incite French public opinion against the government while threatening attacks to punish France for the war in Afghanistan and express al Qa'eda's resentment for the decision to ban the niqab in France.

Al Qa'eda is holding five French hostages kidnapped from Niger last month. They will be the centre of negotiations between the organisation and Paris.

The majority of terrorism experts are anticipating that France will be at the heart of the confrontation between al Qa'eda and the West.

Leaked documents don't target al Maliki

Nouri al Maliki didn't state that the contents of the leaked US military secret documents were lies and rumours, commented Abdulrahman al Rashed for London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat. Instead, he said the publication of these documents aims to deprive him from acceding to another term as prime minister.

A look at the documents' index shows that they barely concern Mr al Maliki, whereas the real damage falls on the Pentagon, Iran and Syria.

Mr al Maliki's allegations are weak. For one, if Washington were truly adamant on denying him victory, it wouldn't need to resort to such self-destructive methods. The US holds enough political power in Iraq to sway Mr al Maliki's allies away and weaken his position.

He is in fact one of Washington's favourite personalities for the role of prime minister. But his problem is that he wants to be a dictator. He wants sovereign positions and vast jurisdiction as he had during the past four years.

There is no governance accountability system in Iraq, which means that the revelation of infractions by high government officials has no consequences whatsoever on the ground.

The content of the leaked documents is alarming and horrible. It implicates the prime minister in scandalous murders. For this reason, Mr al Maliki should explain himself rather than point fingers.

Needed: a fair global financial system

The global financial crisis has dictated the need for reform in the world's financial systems, observed the Emirati daily Al Bayan in its editorial.

One of the essential causes of the crisis was that the financial institutions don't assess their risks. Countries have realised the importance of financial reform that would pinpoint weaknesses before they occur. This is the role of big economies.

The West is currently seeking to develop a fairer financial system that guarantees common uniform rules and regulations that financial systems all over the world would abide by.

The EU presidents' conference that was held in Brussels aimed at devising a common crisis management plan to ensure financial stability in the euro zone.

The implementation of this new plan is of great urgency. The time factor is not in the favour of the reform process as countries are becoming less enthusiastic for the reform the more time goes by, which would cause another global setback.

The crisis started with the collapse of the real-estate sector in the US. Therefore, the US is required to take definite measures alongside major nations to design a uniform strategy that would put global economy on the road to recovery.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem