Moroccan journalist ready to replace banned site

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — A prominent Moroccan editor known for his taboo-breaking coverage said Wednesday he is ready to start another news website to replace the one blocked by authorities.

Ali Anouzla, who was charged with advocating terrorism and abetting terrorists after his news website wrote about an al-Qaida video criticizing Morocco and its king, has kept a low profile since being freed on bail in October following a month in prison.

The charges against him carry up to a 20-year jail sentence. His trial is ongoing, with the next session set for May 20. As part of his bail, authorities blocked his website, but he has since asked them to restore it.

"I am out on bail but that doesn't mean I can't practice my profession as a journalist," he said, explaining that if after a few weeks there was no response, he would launch Lakome 2. Anouzla is known for his secular outlook and many see the supporting terrorism charges as punishment for his past criticism of King Mohammed VI.

Morocco, a popular tourist destination, is more stable and open than its North African neighbors, but it still ranks low on media freedom indexes. However, in the past few years there has been an explosion in online journalism, with Anouzla's Lakome site leading the way.

Last year alone Anouzla's website broke the story of the king's accidental pardon of a convicted Spanish child molester, criticized the king's frequent trips to France and broke with the official position on human rights monitoring in the annexed Western Sahara.

The charges against Anouzla will prevent him from traveling to the U.S. in May to receive a democracy award.

Associated Press reporter Smail Bellaoualli contributed to this report.

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