Another citizen-journalist held for covering Rif protests

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the arrest of Abdelkebir Al Hor, the founder and editor of the independent news website Rassdmaroc, who is the fourth citizen-journalist to be prosecuted since the start of a wave of protests in Morocco’s northern Rif region.

Arrested in Marrakesh on 5 August, Al Hor, the founder and editor of Rassdmaroc, was transferred to Casablanca, where he spent five days in police custody before being taken to Rabat for an initial hearing before a judge who specializes in terrorist cases.

Charged with “condoning terrorism,” “inciting disobedience” and “insulting state authority,” he is now in preventive detention pending the conclusion of the judicial investigation.

His family told RSF that he was arrested above all because of his many articles about the so-called “Al Hirak” protest movement in the Rif region and the city of Al-Hoceima in particular.

His lawyer told RSF that Al Hor had done nothing in the course of his journalistic activities to justify the “extremely grave” charges, which carry a possible ten-year jail sentence.

“Covering and commenting on a protest movement is not a crime,” RSF said. “We point out that citizen-journalism is protected by the UN Human Rights Committee’s recent interpretation of article 19 (on freedom of expression and opinion) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“We therefore call for the immediate release of Abdelkebir Al Hor and all the other citizen-journalists and media assistants who are being arbitrarily detained for covering the protests in the Rif region.”

Arrested while filming a protest in Al-Hoceima in 20 July, Hamid Mahdaoui, the editor of the news website, was sentenced to three months in prison for supposedly “inviting” people to “participate in a banned demonstration.”

Three other citizen-journalists are currently held in connection with their coverage of the Rif protests. All are awaiting the conclusion of a judicial investigation. Rif Press website editor Mohamed El Hilali was given a royal pardon on 30 July, a month after being sentenced to five months in prison.

Morocco is ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 31.08.2017