Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Moroccan authorities to drop the absurd and iniquitous charge of harming the country’s territorial integrity brought against website editor Ali Anouzla on the basis of a translation error, and to abandon the trial that is due to begin today.
In an interview for the German newspaper Bild in November 2015, Anouzla referred to “Sahara” but the newspaper transcribed it as “occupied Western Sahara.” Anouzla explained this when he was questioned about it by the authorities in December and the newspaper published a correction in February. Anouzla, who edits the Lakome2 news site, is nonetheless due to be tried today in Rabat for “endangering the Kingdom’s territorial integrity,” an extremely grave charge that carries a possible five-year jail sentence. “Holding a journalist responsible for a translation error by prosecuting him on such a grave charge is outrageous and ridiculous,” said Yasmine Kacha, the head of RSF’s North Africa desk. “We call on the Moroccan authorities to show some sense by withdrawing the charge at once and without conditions.” Anouzla is already the subject of a separate prosecution on a charge of “defending terrorism” for posting a link to an article on the website of the Spanish daily El Pais that, in turn, had a link to a video posted by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). RSF has repeatedly urged the authorities to abandon these proceedings, which are still under way. Morocco is ranked 130th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.