A prominent Moroccan journalist is in prison after being charged with defending and inciting "terrorism" for posting a link to an al-Qaeda video threatening Morocco.
On Sept. 17, Moroccan police arrested Ali Anouzla, the editor of the Arabic-language site Lakome.com, at his home and confiscated personal computers and hard drives as well as the ones kept in Lakome offices, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported.
The 41-minute video, titled “Morocco: the kingdom of corruption and despotism,” was published online Sept. 12 by Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the North African wing of the Islamist organization. Reports said the video strongly criticized King Mohammed VI, who has been in power for 14 years, and called for “Moroccan youth to engage in jihad.” The video followed the dismantling of another AQIM cell in Morocco, AllAfrica reported.
At the request of the Moroccan government, the video was removed from YouTube for breaking the website’s policy on violent content.
Mohamed Darif, a researcher who specializes in Islamic groups, said in an interview with AllAfrica that “Morocco is today the only country that still eludes al-Qaeda, and this provokes its anger.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters without Borders, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Journalists, have all condemned Anouzla’s arrest.
After being formally charged, Anouzla was transferred to Sale prison in Rabat and is being investigated for “defending”, providing “material assistance to”, and “inciting terrorist acts,” under Morocco’s anti-terrorist law, France 24 reported. Anouzla’s lawyer, Omar Benjelloun, said the investigation could last 5 months.
In 2012, FreedomHouse stated the Moroccan constitution “guarantees freedom of expression, but the press law prohibits criticism of the monarchy and Islam.” Lakome.com and Anouzla himself are known for being critical of the government and for calling for more press freedom in the country.
“Their blindness to the nature of journalism makes us concerned for the future of freedom of information in Morocco. Anouzla is paying a high price for his independence, his readiness to speak freely and his commitment to media freedom,” Reporters Without Borders said.
By Christine Coester and Colin Hope.