RSF protesters call for release of Moroccan journalist on hunger strike
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) protested outside the Moroccan embassy in Paris today to press for the urgent release of Maati Monjib, a journalist with French and Moroccan dual citizenship who has been held for more than two and half months in a jail in Rabat and whose health is worsening dangerously after 16 days on hunger strike.
The RSF demonstrators brandished 16 black placards symbolising each of the 16 days since this journalist and historian stopped eating and each of the symptoms he has been developing, which include stomach spasms, decreased heart rate, headaches, muscle pain, dizziness, fainting, vomiting and delirium.
“Maati Monjib is a historian and he is politically committed, but he is also a journalist and a leading one,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “An innocent man should not be allowed to die because people are either indifferent or cynical. Maati Monjib must be freed at once and all the charges against him must be dropped.”
Monjib’s wife, Christiane Dardé, was among those taking part in today’s protest outside the Moroccan embassy gates to draw the attention to Monjib’s extremely worrying condition. Aged 59, he already had heart problems and diabetes before he began the hunger strike and he has lost 8 kilos in weight in the past 16 days.
“He has begun to be very tired,” said Dardé, adding that she did not understand the silence of the French authorities. “The values of freedom and tolerance that are so dear to France” must be placed “above geo-strategic interests,” she said.
Monjib has stopped eating in protest against his “abusive arrest” and the outrageous one-year prison sentence on charges of “fraud” and “undermining state security” that he received from a court in Rabat at a hearing on 27 January. Neither he nor his lawyers were summoned to the hearing, which took place in their absence in flagrant violation of Morocco’s code of criminal procedure and the principle of an accused’s right to a defence.
“My writings criticising the political and police system and my activities in defence of human rights” are the reason for “my persecution,” he said in a message to his supporters at the start of March.
As well as being one of Morocco’s leading human rights defenders, Monjib is a newspaper columnist who is widely read both in Morocco and by the Moroccan diaspora. A member of the editorial committee of the online and print magazine Zamane, he wrote a column every two weeks for the London-based newspaper Alquds Alarabi until his arrest. As the founder of the Moroccan Association for Investigative Journalism (ANJI), he has also helped to train more than 450 Moroccan journalists.
He previously staged a three-week hunger strike in 2015 after being banned from leaving the country.
Morocco is ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.