Moroccans theses days have forgotten about the new government reshuffle. People have lost faith in the actual El Othmani’s cabinet, which is considered as the worst in the history of the kingdom. Now, they are focusing on the arrest of Hajar Rissouni sentenced to a year in prison having an “illegal abortion” and “sex outside marriage”.
Hajar, who works for the independent Arabic-speaking newspaper Akhbar Alyaoum, denied she had any abortion outside marriage. However, we believe she has been detained for her journalism and , frankly speaking, it’s an attempt to revenge against the institution that Hajar works for, known by it’s independent editorial line.
While too many bias news outlets are working hard to highlight the Moroccan police story, as well as hypnotizing the public opinion and tarnish the reputation of human rights activists and emancipated journalists, a group of columnists and bloggers are declared “persona non grata”. They’re constantly being watched. Apparently, the main objective is suffocating free media dedicated to uncovering corruption.
The question is not whether the young journalist had an abortion, but it’s time we admit that everyone’s body is a private matter and therefore she must be released. What’s intriguing, however, is that we count between 600 – 800 illegal abortions everyday in Morocco, according to The Alternative Movement for the defense of Individual Freedoms (MALI). Unfortunately, instead of trying to abolish or at least to review the existing law so it guarantees the minimum of rights for women, the authorities mobilize all possible means to suffocate dissidents and the liberals raising their voices for a democratic Morocco.
The last report released by Freedom House in 2019 said it clearly: Press in Morocco is not free. The international press watchdog added that the Moroccan state uses the law, which is supposed to ensure citizen’s safety, “to punish critical journalists”. It’s a dirty war that aims to intimidate and silence unalienated journalists. Reporters without Borders in its turn has ranked Morocco 135 out of 180 countries for safety of journalists, describing the media climate in our country as “very difficult.”
We all remember the arrest of the journalist Ali Anouzla in September 2013. He was jailed for “providing material assistance to terrorist acts”. In July 2017, Anouzla’s compatriot, Hamid El Mahdaoui, was charged for “inciting for participation in a banned protest” and “breaking the law through speeches and shouting in public places”, during the protest movement in the Berber-speaking Rif region in northern Morocco. One year later, Taoufik Bouachrine, former Rissouni’s chief, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for “sexual violence” he always denied.
The independent media in Morocco are under blockade . On the opposite, yellow journalism is ubiquitous. I won’t mention their names. There’s no need I think . The only thing they are good at is covering scandals, their target audience is just ordinary citizens lacking in knowledge of how media make news. Their ultimate goal is distracting people from real issues. Meanwhile , a serious war is launched against professional journalism.
Independent media play a key role in democracy. Unfortunately, the few news outlets that provide accurate information are struggling to survive in a country where the majority are thirsty for scandals and the “buzz”. Who has interest to obliterate the right of freedom of mind and speech in our beloved country? We all know the answer.
*This Op-Ed was written as part of the 2019 YaLa Alumni Opinion Writing Course