Hunger strike is last resort for some imprisoned Moroccan journalists
As Omar Radi and Suleiman Raissouni, two Moroccan journalists who have been held provisionally for months, continue hunger strikes to press their demands to be freed, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Moroccan authorities to stop subjecting journalists to arbitrary and abusive prosecutions that drive them to put their lives in danger.
Radi, a freelancer, has been held for the past eight months while Raissouni, the editor of the Akhbar al Yaoum daily newspaper, has been held for nearly a year. Both are accused of offences that are unrelated to their journalistic work and both insist on their innocence, saying they were arrested because of their coverage of corruption and inequality in Morocco.
Their trials, which were due to open at the start of April, have been postponed yet again. Their provisional release requests have been rejected at least ten times. The victims of arbitrary and abusive judicial proceedings, they have stopped eating in the hope that the world will hear their demands to be freed.
Raissouni was the first to begin a “protest fast” on 8 April. After a heavy-handed search of his cell in which guards confiscated the honey he had planned to consume while not eating solids, he also stopped consuming liquids and announced his determination to continue to the end. In a Facebook post, his wife said he was now facing “freedom, justice or death.”
After six days without liquids, his condition was critical and he finally agreed to resume consuming liquids when the prison authorities returned his confiscated belongings. In all, he has lost 15 kilos since his arrest nearly a year ago and has chronic hypertension.
Radi has not eaten anything since 9 April and his family, like Raissouni’s family, hold the Moroccan authorities responsible for anything that happens to him as a result of the hunger strike. He has lost 10 kilos since his arrest eight months ago and suffers from asthma and Crohn’s disease, the effects of which have been acute in the past two weeks, causing diarrhoea and vomiting.
“It is unacceptable that journalists end up putting their lives in danger to make their demands for justice heard and to recover the freedom they should never have lost,” said Souhaieb Khayati, the head of RSF’s North Africa desk. “The Moroccan authorities must stop resorting to these arbitrary and iniquitous prosecutions that drive journalists to choose the worst methods to defend their rights.”
Two other Moroccan journalists have recently resorted to hunger strikes to demand their rights. One is Maâti Monjib, a journalist and historian with Moroccan and French dual nationality who, despite being in poor health after three months in preventive detention, went on hunger strike on 4 March after being convicted at a trial hearing of which his lawyers weren’t even informed. He was released after 20 days without eating.
The other is Mohamed Lamin Haddi, a Sahrawi journalist with RASD TV who has been jailed since 2010 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2013. He began a hunger strike on 13 January but did not have the same success as Monjib and is now being force-fed by means of a nasogastric tube.
Morocco is ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.