King Mohamed VI pledged a series of constitutional reforms in March after the region’s wave of popular uprisings passed through the kingdom. But the reforms did not extend to opening up the press. Authorities took concerted measures to suppress coverage of mass protests in Casablanca’s streets. During a March protest in the capital, Rabat, uniformed police assaulted several journalists covering its violent dispersal. The biggest and most controversial case in the kingdom was that of Rachid Nini, a prominent government critic, executive editor of the Moroccan daily Al-Massae, and owner of Al-Massae Media Group. He was detained in April and sentenced to one year in prison on charges of “denigrating judicial rulings” and “compromising the security and safety of the homeland and citizens.”
Nini often highlighted government corruption and criticized counterterrorism policies. The opinion piece that led to his arrest criticized Morocco's intelligence service and argued that it should be put under parliamentary oversight. In June, he was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison.
Mohamed Dawas, a critical blogger, was also imprisoned in retaliation for his work. In September, he was sentenced to 19 months on trumped-up drug trafficking charges.
On March 13, security forces used violent dispersal tactics to clamp down on protesters who took to the streets of Casablanca to call for government reforms and greater freedoms, CPJ research shows.
Morocco had the highest penetration of Internet users in North Africa, according to the International Telecommunication Union.
An Internet leader in North Africa:
Morocco: 49 percent
The Moroccan judiciary has frequently been used as a tool to silence the independent media. From 2009 to 2011, a number of newspapers were targeted in politicized criminal proceedings for their writings on taboo subjects such as the health of the king, the royal family, or government criticism, CPJ research shows.
Under Article 52 of the Press Law, journalists could face up to one year in jail and fines up to 100,000 dirhams (US$11,955) if convicted on defamation charges. Authorities have used this charge to silence independent media, CPJ research shows.