February 3, 2018

One Moroccan journalist convicted, four others on trial

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is very disturbed by the four-jail sentence that Abdelkabir al Horr, the founder and editor of the Rassdmaroc news website, received on appeal in Rabat on 1 February in connection with his coverage of the “Hirak” protest movement in Morocco’s northern Rif region.

RSF is also concerned about the trial that began in Rabat on 25 January of four journalists accused of publishing confidential information about suspected corruption within the Moroccan Retirement Fund (CMR).

Horr’s prosecution on charges of “condoning terrorism,” “inciting a banned demonstration” and “insulting state authority” had begun in August 2017

His lawyer said in a statement that Horr was prosecuted in connection with posts about the Rif protests in a Facebook account that he had not controlled since 2016, when his Facebook account was suspended. The statement added that the court had rejected a request for an expert analysis.

The four journalists whose trial began on 25 January are Mohamed Ahdad of the newspaper Al Massae, Abdelhak Belachgar of the newspaper Akhbar Al Yaoum, and Kaoutar Zaki and Abdelilah Sakhir of the news website Aljarida24.

They are facing a possible five-year jail sentence and a fine of 1,000 à 10,000 dirhams (100 to 1,000 euros) on charges of “divulging confidential information” and “complicity” for publishing extracts from a confidential parliamentary enquiry into suspected corruption within the CMR.

“Covering street protests or providing information in the public interest is not a crime, it is a right,” RSF editor-in-chief Virginie Dangles said. “The frenzied manner with which the judicial authorities are persecuting journalists is a bad sign. We call for Abdelkabir al Horr’s immediate release and the withdrawal of all charges against journalists who just did their job to report the news.”

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