Demonstrators in Al-Hoceima, in northern Morocco's Rif region, protest on June 4, 2017. (Reuters/Youssef Boudlal)
Demonstrators in Al-Hoceima, in northern Morocco's Rif region, protest on June 4, 2017. (Reuters/Youssef Boudlal)

Moroccan website director held in solitary confinement pending trial

Moroccan security forces on June 6, 2017, arrested Mohamed al-Asrihi, a video journalist and the director of the opposition news website Rif24, from the home of activist Mohsen Athari in the northern town of Trogout, where he was hiding, according to news reports and a statement from Rif24.

Police attempted to arrest al-Asrihi on May 27 while he covered al-Hirak al-Shaaby (The Popular Movement) protests in the northern city of al-Hoceima, but the website director evaded them and fled the city, his brother, Wail al-Asrihi, told CPJ by email.

Al-Asrihi produced video coverage of protests in the Rif area of northern Morocco, and of its imprisoned leader Nasser al-Zefzafi for Rif24, according to news reports and al-Asrihi’s Facebook page. Al-Asrihi is now held in solitary confinement in Casablanca’s Oukacha Prison pending trial on charges including practicing journalism without official accreditation and receiving foreign funding from “separatists” abroad, according to news reports.

Al-Asrihi, who did not deny either charges, said he had received his camera and other journalistic equipment from Farid Aouled Lahcen, a Dutch-Moroccan activist who lives in the Netherlands, to produce a documentary film about Muhammad Abdelkarim al-Khattabi, a northern Moroccan activist who led an armed movement against the French and the Spanish armies in the 1910s, according to the same reports. The journalist also faces charges of “disseminating false news,” which he denied, according to the reports. On June 15, al-Asrihi began a 72-hour hunger strike, according to a statement published by Rif24.

Protests erupted in the Rif region in October 2016, after a fishmonger, Mohsen Fikri, was crushed in a garbage truck trying to recover fish the police had confiscated from him, according to news reports.