Another Moroccan move to restrict coverage of Rif unrest

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Morocco’s expulsion of two Spanish journalists, José Luis Navazo and Fernando Sanz, who in recent weeks had been covering the protests in Al-Hoceïma, in the northern Rif region.

The editor of the Correo Diplomático online newsletter, Navazo has lived in Morocco for the past 17 years with his wife of Moroccan origin and his two children, while Sanz is a freelancer who had been finishing a report about the protests.

Police arrested them in Tétouan on 25 July, seizing their equipment and material, and expelled them without any explanation three hours later across the nearby land border with Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the north Moroccan coast.

“I am stunned by what has happened,” Navazo told RSF. “Morocco is the country I love and I have left my wife and children there. Nonetheless, I did my job in a professional and honest manner and checked all my information with different sources.”

RSF Spain secretary-general Rosa Meneses said: “We call on the Moroccan authorities to allow José Luis Navazo to rejoin his family in Tétouan. We also ask the Spanish government to intercede on behalf of this journalist.”

In a statement for the weekly Tel Quel, Moroccan culture and communication minister Mohamed Lâaraj claimed that Navazo and Sanz, “identified themselves as tourists, not journalists, and tried to film although they had no permit for filming.”

“There can be no justification for expelling journalists in such a summary manner, without giving them time to explain themselves or take the necessary steps,” said Yasmine Kacha, the head of RSF’s North Africa desk.

“This latest sign of hostility on the part of the authorities is part of a broader policy aimed at restricting the work of both Moroccan and foreign journalists trying to cover events in the Rif, a region that is in growing danger of becoming a no-go area for independent media.”

Navazo and Sanz were expelled on the same day that Moroccan journalist Hamid El Mahdaoui was sentenced to three months in prison on a charge of “inviting” people to participate in a banned demonstration in Al-Hoceïma, the epicentre of the protest movement in the Rif.

RSF described his conviction as “unjust and summary” in apress release on 26 July, which reported that a total of seven citizen-journalists and media workers had been arrested in or near Al-Hoceïma in recent weeks.

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

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Updated on 28.07.2017