Morocco denies interference in state TV policy

RABAT (AA) – Moroccan Communications Minister Mustapha Khalfi on Tuesday denied that he had interfered with editorial policy at the country's state television apparatus.

Khalfi's statements came in response to enquiries by opposition lawmakers regarding the role of Moroccan media in a recent diplomatic crisis between Rabat and Cairo.

Opposition parliamentarians have blamed Khalfi for broadcasting news reports on state-run television channels that contributed to the diplomatic row with Egypt.

Khalfi insisted that he had not issued any directives to state TV channels regarding editorial policy, adding that the channels in question were "nonpartisan," reflecting the country's pluralist society.

Moroccan opposition parties, for their part, urged both Rabat and Cairo to help ease the current diplomatic tension.

On Thursday, two Moroccan state television channels described Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi as a "coup leader," while referring to ousted leader Mohamed Morsi as Egypt's "legitimate president."

It was the first time for Moroccan state media to describe Morsi's ouster by the army in mid-2013 as a "coup."

Last summer, Morocco's King Mohammed VI had been quick to congratulate al-Sisi after he was declared president of Egypt.

Shortly afterward, Egyptian TV anchor Amani al-Khayyat irked many Moroccans by criticizing Rabat's role in the Palestine-Israel dispute.

Al-Khayyat had also asserted that prostitution was "a pillar of the Moroccan economy" and that Morocco was "among the top countries affected by HIV," going on to suggest that such practices were taking place under "Islamist rule."

Moroccan activists at the time urged the government, which is led by the Islamist Justice and Development Party, to demand an official apology from the Egyptian government.

Al-Khayyat, for her part, later apologized for the remarks after Egypt's Foreign Ministry distanced itself from her statements.

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