Human Rights Watch (Washington, DC)

20 September 2013

Morocco: Why Is a Journalist Really Behind Bars?

press release

Moroccan authorities on Tuesday arrested prominent journalist Ali Anouzla after the Arabic-language news website he directs, Lakome.com, posted an article about a video released by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

He has now been detained for more than 72 hours without being presented to a judge, raising concerns that he is being held under Morocco'santi-terrorism law, the only criminal law that permits detention this long without a courtroom appearance.

The video focused its wrath on King Mohammed VI, the first time ever that this armed group took rhetorical aim at Morocco's monarch. Lakome.com, which reported on the video's reproaches of the king's rule and its call on Moroccan youth to join the jihad, called the video "propaganda" and did not post it on its site. Rather, it linked to a blog poston the website of the Spanish daily El País, which linked to the video.

Morocco's anti-terror law provides up to six years in prison for speech that "justifies" terrorism. The penal code also punishes incitement to commit a crime. It is hard to see how Lakome.com's article does either. Rather, the news site fulfilled the right of Moroccans to know that a major militant group had set its sights on their country's leader.

Anouzla's supporters believe the arrest was made in retaliation for the journalist's many articles trampling the taboos on covering the king critically. In one of his boldest articlesof 2013, Anouzla castigated Mohammed VI for his long absences from the country, asking if he was entitled, as"king, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and chief-of-staff, to be away so often and for so long, without even bothering to announce the date or duration of the trip, or who is in charge of the country's affairs in his absence, as is standard procedure in any other country?"

Is it commentary like this, or an elastic notion of incitement to terrorism, that put Anouzla behind bars?

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