Two more foreign journalists deported by Morocco
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Morocco's expulsion of two French journalists following their arrest on 20 September in Casablanca, where they had gone to do investigative reporting. This latest deportation of foreign reporters shows yet again that the Moroccan government is determined to restrict press freedom, RSF says.
Thérèse Di Campo, a freelance photojournalist, and Quentin Müller, the deputy editor of the French magazine Marianne, were arrested by ten plainclothesmen wearing medical masks, who descended on their hotel at around 3 a.m. on 20 September and told them they were no long welcome in Morocco.
After being taken to Casablanca's Mohamed V international airport, they were locked in a police room for more than an hour before men, who identified themselves as police officers, told them they would be put on a flight to Marseille. Müller objected, saying he lived in Paris, not in Marseille. Thérèse Di Campo pointed out that she lived in Brussels. The men left and finally returned with plane tickets to Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport. One of them took a photo of the two journalists as they left the room to board the flight.
The two reporters were given no explanation but Ali Lmrabet, a self-exiled Moroccan freelance journalist now based in Spain, said there could be little doubt that they were deported because they met with the families of political prisoners in the course of their reporting in Morocco.
Müller, who is also an author specializing in the Arabian Peninsula, announced in a tweet after his expulsion that Marianne was going to publish a "long investigative piece about King Mohammed VI, his court and his security services".
He also said he had been able to “amass exclusive information portraying an increasingly harsh regime, frightened by any show of local protest.” They were arrested because they met “Moroccan personalities under surveillance,” he said. “There is no other explanation,” he told AFP, describing his arrest as “purely political.”
Reporting at first hand, especially in dramatic situations, is at the heart of the work of journalists and these two reporters were just doing their job. Those who suddenly decided to stop them are hurting their own image. While several Moroccan journalists continue to be detained on trumped-up charges, foreign journalists are being deported for no good reason. This latest expulsion, a sudden and unacceptable attack on press freedom, reflects a desire to prevent media reporting in Morocco, whether local or international. We urge the Moroccan authorities to respect the work of journalists."
"These are secret police methods, brutal acts of intimidation," Di Campo told RSF. "It's worrying because the authorities are supposed to protect visiting foreign journalists, not obstruct their work with methods worthy of a spy novel."
As a photojournalist, Di Campo has covered protests in Morocco in the past, including the big wave of protests in the northern Rif region in 2017. She is also a member of a Brussels-based support committee for political prisoners in Morocco.
"My French nationality protects me so, as a European journalist, I was only deported, but in Morocco there's been a real ecosystem of oppression for years, to which anyone expressing an opinion is subjected. The Moroccan authorities have not only jailed critical journalists but also ordinary citizens for a simple tweet, and even people who took part in demonstrations with social demands. Some of them were sentenced to 20 years in prison.”
The Moroccan government commented on the expulsion yesterday (21 September). In a statement after a government meeting, spokesman Mustapha Baïtas said the two French journalists had entered Morocco as "tourists" and had not told the authorities that they intended to conduct journalistic activities.
Deporting journalists – a Moroccan tradition
Müller and Di Campo are far from being the first foreign journalists to be deported by the Moroccan authorities.
Fernando González and four other journalists with the Spanish TV channel La Sexta were deported in July 2021. The Spanish news agency EFE reported at the time that it was because they had been reporting on an industrial accident in a textile sweatshop in Tangier earlier that year in which 29 people died.
Saeed Kamali Dehghan, a British reporter for The Guardian newspaper, was deported on 28 September 2017 after being arrested while covering the huge protests in Al-Hoceima, in the northern Rif region.
Djamel Alilat, an Algerian reporter for the El Watan newspaper, was deported in May 2017 after being arrested while covering one of the Rif protests. Two Spanish journalists – the director of the Correo Diplomático news site, José Luis Navazo, who had been living in Morocco for years, and the website's Madrid representative, Fernando Sanz – were deported two months later after being arrested while covering the demonstrations in the Rif region. They "did not have the necessary accreditation," a government source said.
Two French journalists with the Premières Lignes agency, Jean-Louis Perez and Pierre Chautard, were deported in February 2015 while working on a documentary about economic problems in Morocco, including income inequality.
Morocco is ranked 144th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index.