New York, September 18, 2013--Authorities in Morocco should release an editor who was arrested on Tuesday in connection with an article published on his website, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Police arrested Ali Anouzla, editor of the Arabic edition of the news website Lakome, at his home, and seized computers and hard drives from the journalist's home and the offices of Lakome, according to Aboubakr Jamai, founder of the French edition of the paper. The same day, the prosecutor's office ordered the website to stop publishing pending an investigation. The journalist is being held in Rabat, according to news reports. He has not been charged.
Anouzla was arrested in connection with a news article published on the Arabic website on July 13, which referred to an article posted on El País, the leading Spanish daily, that included a direct link to a YouTube video, news reports said. The video was purportedly posted by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a North African branch of the extremist group.
The video, which was first published on Thursday, sharply criticized the Moroccan king for despotism and corruption. It also called on Moroccan youth to engage in jihad. The video was later removed by YouTube at the request of Moroccan authorities, according to Lakome. YouTube said it removed it because it breached the company's policy on violence.
The general prosecutor said on Tuesday that publishing threats from Al-Qaeda was a criminal action and that victims of terrorist attacks in Morocco had requested the authorities to initiate a judicial investigation into several papers that reposted the video. The government said it would file a lawsuit against El País, reports said.
Lakome has reported extensively on corruption and abuses within the Moroccan government since its establishment in 2010. Anouzla has been investigated multiple times by the Moroccan authorities for his coverage, most recently in June after he accused the Moroccan intelligence services of instigating a smear campaign against him.
"Anouzla's publication was singled out for sharing what was readily available media content," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "The Moroccan authorities, like many before them, are using fighting terrorism as a tool to go after critical journalists."
The French edition of Lakome also published an article on the same day as the Arabic edition that included a direct link to the YouTube video. The website is edited by Jamai, a Germany-based journalist who received CPJ's International Press Freedom Award in 2003. Jamai has not faced any official charges or harassment in connection with his article, he told CPJ.
In an unrelated case, Moroccan authorities in June convicted Youssef Jajili, editor-in-chief of the investigative weekly Alaan Magazine, of criminal defamation in connection with an article he wrote that said a government official had ordered champagne to his hotel room while on a taxpayer-funded trip outside the country. The official denied the allegations. Jajili received a two-month jail term, which was later suspended, and was handed fines, which he paid, according to news reports.
CPJ research shows that several newspapers have been targeted in politicized criminal proceedings in recent years for criticizing the government or for covering taboo subjects such as the health of the king or the royal family.
- For more data and analysis, visit CPJ's Morocco page here.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This alert has been modified to reflect that whereas Lakome and other sources reported that the YouTube video was taken down at the request of the authorities, YouTube has said that it did so because it breached the company's policy on violence. The alert has also been corrected to reflect that Aboubakr Jamai is based in Germany, not France.