Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of Omar Radi, an outspoken freelance journalist and human rights activist who has been imprisoned in Casablanca for criticizing a judge in a tweet last April. The Moroccan authorities must stop using the criminal code to prosecute journalists in connection with their work, RSF said.

Known for being very critical of Morocco’s king, the 33-year-old Radi was jailed on 26 December on a charge of “contempt of court” for criticizing a judge’s verdict. A Casablanca appeal court judge had just imposed sentences of up to 20 years in prison on a total of 42 people for participating in the so-called “Hirak” protests in northern Morocco’s Rif region in 2016 and 2017.

Describing the judge as an “executioner” in his 5 April tweet, Radi said: “These shameless officials should be neither forgotten nor forgiven.”

On the morning of 26 December, Radi was summoned by the judicial police, who transferred the case to the prosecutor’s office. A prosecutor detained him immediately for contempt of court, which is punishable by up to a month in prison under article 263 of the criminal code. At a hearing a few hours later the same day, a court rejected a request by Radi’s lawyers’ for his provisional release and adjourned the case until 2 January.

Radi often works for both Moroccan and international media outlets. He has written investigative reports on corruption cases and has of late covered many protests throughout Morocco.

We call for Omar Radi’s immediate release, because the criminal code should not be used to prosecute journalists in connection with their work,” RSF said. “We regret that Morocco continues to impose prison sentences on journalists for press offences. These criminal code provisions continue to be a permanent threat to Moroccan journalists although the 2016 press law abolished prisons sentences for journalists.”

Morocco is ranked 135th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 30.12.2019