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Freedom of Expression
Home > Country focus > Morocco > Freedom of Expression in Morocco in 2012

Freedom of Expression in Morocco in 2012

Thursday 10 January 2013, by Un Ponte Per...

The World Press Freedom Index placed Morocco 136th in its analysis of 2012. According to Human Right’s Watch, the country persecutes “speech that is defamatory, offensive to members of the royal family; or that undermines ‘Islam, the institution of the monarchy, or territorial integrity,’ that is, Morocco’s claim on Western Sahara.” Public criticisms of political leaders have led journalists to be harassed. Several examples are listed below:

  • On 27 March six months were added to Walid Bahomane jail sentence of one year for criticizing the king on facebook.
  • On 4 October Omar Brouksy had his press accreditation revoked for writing a political article about the election referring to Fouad Ali El Himma as being ‘close to the king.’ This incident occurred shortly after Brousky was attacked by police officers when covering a protest outside parliament on 23 August.

Newspaper censorship and attempts to suppress online free expression are prevalent in Morocco. Direct criticism of the government is not permitted and is unjustly persecuted. Freedom of expression remained a prominent issue during 2012 for Morocco.

Examples cited in text:
Details on 4 Octobor and 23 August incident with Omar Brousku
Details on 27 March jail sentence of Walid Bahomane

Various sources on freedom of expression in Morocco throughout 2012:

Human Rights Watch - World Report 2013

Human rights conditions were decidedly mixed in Morocco, as a 2011 constitution containing strong human rights provisions did not translate into improved practices. While Moroccans exercised their right to protest in the streets, the police often dispersed them violently, and protest leaders and dissidents risked imprisonment after unfair trials, sometimes based on the many laws repressing speech that have yet to be revised in light of the new constitution.

In January 2012, for the first time, an Islamist became prime minister, after the Hizb al-Adalah wal-Tanmiya (Justice and Development) party won a plurality of seats in legislative elections. Moustapha Ramid, a well-known human rights lawyer, became justice minister. On July 31, Ramid declared in a television interview that among Morocco’s 65,000 prisoners there were no “prisoners of opinion,” a statement contradicted by the incarceration of rapper al-Haqed and student Abdessamad Haydour for their peaceful speech.

Freedom of Assembly, Association, and Expression

Inspired by popular protests elsewhere in the region, Moroccans have since February 2011 held periodic marches and rallies to demand sweeping political reforms .The police tolerated many of these protests, spearheaded by the youthful, loosely organized February 20 Movement for Change, but on some occasions attacked and beat protesters severely.

Seddik Kebbouri, president of the Bouarfa section of the independent Moroccan Association for Human Rights, served eight months in prison following his conviction in an unfair trial for his alleged role in a May 2011 demonstration that ended in rock-throwing and property damage. A royal pardon freed Kebbouri and nine co-defendants on February 4, 2012. A Casablanca court on September 12 sentenced five protesters to between eight and ten months in prison on charges they assaulted police at a street protest on July 22, even though the court relied on confessions that the defendants claimed had been beaten out of them.

Freedom of Expression

Morocco’s independent print and online media investigate and criticize government officials and policies, but face prosecution and harassment when they cross certain lines. The press law includes prison terms for “maliciously” spreading “false information” likely to disturb the public order or for speech that is defamatory, offensive to members of the royal family; or that undermines “Islam, the institution of the monarchy, or territorial integrity,” that is, Morocco’s claim on Western Sahara.
Moroccan state television provides some room for investigative reporting but little for direct criticism of the government or dissent on key issues. In April, Rachid Nini, a popular columnist and editor of al-Masa’ daily, completed a oneyear prison sentence on charges, based on his articles, of attempting to influence judicial decisions, showing contempt for judicial decisions, and falsely accusing public officials of crimes.

Morocco revoked the accreditation of Agence France-Presse journalist Omar Brouksy on October 5 because of an article in which he described a political party running candidates in a by-election that day as being close to the palace. In November, authorities announced that it would allow Al Jazeera television to re-open its bureau, two years after they closed it after criticizing its coverage of the Western Sahara conflict.

In May, a Casablanca court convicted and sentenced rap musician Mouad
Belghouat (known as “al-Haqed”—the sullen one) to one year in prison for insulting the police in the lyrics of one of his songs. The conviction and sentence were upheld on appeal in July.

A Taza court in February sentenced Abdelsamad Haydour, 24, of Taza, to three years in prison for attacking the king by calling him a “dog,” “a murderer,” and “a dictator” in an online YouTube video; the penal code criminalizes “insults to the king.”

Reporters Without Borders 8 OCTOBER 2012


Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the increasing violations of freedom of news and information in Morocco. Some journalists, such as Ali Lmrabet, are targets of sustained harassment for criticizing certain political leaders or for tackling subjects that directly or indirectly affect King Mohammed.

“Moroccan journalists must be allowed to work freely,” the press freedom organization said. “Abuses committed by some elements of the security and intelligence services are a cause for concern. We call on the Moroccan government and local authorities in Tetouan to do all in their power to protect Ali Lmrabet and put an end to the campaign of harassment that the journalist is suffering for simply exercising freedom of expression.”

Lmrabet, who runs the news website DemainOnline.com, says he has been the target of new threats and intimidation since he published an article on 31 July that referred to the presence at the London Olympics of General Hosni Benslimane, who is wanted for questioning by a French judge investigating the case of Mehdi Ben Barka. Ben Barka was a Moroccan dissident who disappeared from the streets of Paris more than 40 years ago.

The journalist said he had been assaulted on several occasions. On 12 August, for example, he was beaten for no good reason by three unidentified men who stole his identity card and some money. According to the journalist, the attackers were plainclothes policemen.

A day earlier, a man tried to enter his house about 1 a.m. Lmrabet made complaints in both cases, but no action was taken by the Tetouan police.
On 17 September, several people climbed on to the terrace of his house to film him and his family. “Early in the morning, to my great surprise, an armada of officials including several plainclothes police officers and two intelligence agents led by the local administrator, violated our privacy by climbing on to my terrace to film me and family,” he reported.

Lmrabet was set upon by one of the intruders, who snatched his camera, and threatened and insulted him.

In another case, proceedings were launched against the news portal Yabiladi.com for defamation by the head of the Council for the Moroccan Community Abroad over an article about his travel expenses that was published on the site.
The first hearing in the trial was due to be held today at a court in the Casablanca district of Ain Sebaa. The official is demanding damages of 500,000 dirhams (about 45,000 euros), a large sum in Moroccan terms.

Reporters Without Borders also notes that on 4 October the Moroccan government arbitrarily decided to strip the Agence France-Presse reporter Omar Brouksy of his press accreditation for allegedly writing "an unprofessional dispatch about the partial legislative election in Tangiers".

These cases are part of the difficult climate faced by journalists in Morocco, which is ranked 138th of 179 countries in the 2011/2012 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters without Borders.

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