The Forum of Moroccan Journalists Abroad has called on international officials to work towards securing the release of Ali Anouzla
Journalists in the Moroccan Diaspora have expressed their support for Ali Anouzla, who was arrested on September 17 on counter terrorism charge.
The Forum of Moroccan Journalists Abroad (FMJA) has written a letter to UN officials over the incarceration of a fellow journalist who remains in detention in Morocco on charges of inciting terrorism.
Ali Anouzla, the editor of Lakome.com website, was arrested on September 17 after posting an article which addressed a video attributed to the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The letter explains that Moroccan officials are examining three charges against Anouzla: providing material assistance to parties engaged in acts of terrorism; offering tools for the execution of a terrorist act, and commending an act that amounts to a terrorist crime.
“The Forum of Moroccan Journalists Abroad, an online network of more than 200 journalists based in countries around the world, is addressing you today, each in your respective mandates, hoping to draw your attention to the highly urgent case of Moroccan journalist Ali Anouzla, who has been incarcerated and charged under the Moroccan counterterrorism law.
The case against Mr. Anouzla, the publishing director of the Arabic edition of the Moroccan news website, Lakome.com, is fuelling fears that Morocco’s counterterrorism law is being used as a pretext to further clamp down on free speech and the freedom of the press, and to undermine the independence of the judiciary.”
The letter includes a description of Anouzla and his professional background, which has often led to him bumping heads with the Moroccan authorities.
“Mr. Anouzla, who has been based in Morocco throughout his journalistic career, is known to the Moroccan authorities for his fearless reporting and commentary, which has often put him on a collision course with influential circles within the country’s political establishment. Just recently, Mr. Anouzla accused state agencies of targeting him via an insidious online campaign, and later challenged the Ministry of Interior’s denial of the existence of such a campaign. The Ministry, in turn, accused him of “abusing the freedom of speech”.
Just this summer, Mr. Anouzla was in the limelight after breaking the story of a royal pardon that had been unjustifiably granted to a Spanish national… prompting some observers to conjecture that Mr. Anouzla’s scoop might eventually cause him trouble should the powerful circles close to the king decide to seek revenge.”
The letter goes on to set out the group’s specific concerns, highlighting the worrying trend of using the country’s counter-terrorism laws to prosecute individuals who fall foul of the authorities.
“In view of the volatile relationship between Mr. Anouzla and the Moroccan authorities, and given the rising trend of journalist prosecutions by the Moroccan state in recent years – trials that are conducted under criminal law and result in prison sentences, not to mention the Moroccan state’s precedents in suing some journalists under counterterrorism law, and prosecuting others for criticising the law itself and the practices of the security forces in charge of its enforcement –, we hereby express our deepest concern regarding the use of the counterterrorism law as an instrument to clamp down on the freedom of speech and the freedom of the news media in Morocco.
We also fear the interference of the Government, as well as the parliament, with the judicial process in an attempt to instrumentalize the judiciary in a score-settling exercise targeting the independent press.
We consider the prosecution of a journalist who was simply doing his job to be an encroachment on the rights to freedom of expression and opinion and to information, as stipulated under Article 27 of the Moroccan constitution and in all international human rights instruments, namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (article 19).”
On September 28 , journalists from around the world expressed solidarity with Anouzla, bearing signs declaring him a journalist as opposed to a terrorist. A number of journalists participated in a one-day hunger strike as a show of support for Anouzla.
Doha Centre for Media Freedom has also expressed support for Anouzla and joined other groups in calling for the Moroccan authorities to release the journalist and immediately drop all the charges he currently faces.
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