Morocco defends expulsion of Guardian journalist
Morocco's communication minister said Friday that a journalist for Britain's Guardian newspaper was expelled because he had been working in a tense region of the country without a permit.
The newspaper said Saeed Kamali Dehghan was sent back to London on a flight from Casablanca on Thursday after having attended a Women in Africa summit in Marrakesh earlier in the week.
Kamali Dehghan had travelled on from Marrakesh to Al-Hoceima in the northern Rif region that has been the scene of unrest for several months.
"He presented himself as a tourist and not a journalist. In Al-Hoceima, he conducted interviews without authorisation from the ministry of communication," Mohamed Laaraj told AFP.
Kamali Dehghan became the fourth foreign journalist to be expelled from Morocco this year while trying to cover the Rif unrest.
"Since the start of the year, we have granted almost 900 permits for foreign journalists. None has been refused," the minister said.
"When a journalist has authorisation, it allows us to protect him because he is our responsibility."
The British newspaper said Thursday it was "surprised that a respected Guardian correspondent reporting in Morocco was told to leave the country, and we are looking into the circumstances in more detail".
Kamali Dehghan is principally The Guardian's Iran correspondent and is based at its London headquarters.
In 2010, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Foreign Press Association for his coverage of protests in Tehran.