New York, September 29, 2017--Moroccan authorities should lift any restriction on journalist Saeed Kamali Dehghan's ability to travel to the country, and allow all journalists to report freely on matters of public interest, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Plainclothes policemen on September 27 detained Dehghan while he was reporting on the anti-corruption Al-Hirak al-Shaabi (The People's Movement) in Morocco's northern Rif region, and yesterday expelled him from Casablanca, according to news reports.
"Instead of demonstrating a commitment to press freedom, Morocco is doubling down on its effort to silence journalists," CPJ's Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington D.C. "We call on Moroccan authorities to lift any restrictions on Dehghan's ability to enter Morocco, and to allow all journalists to report freely on protests in the Rif area."
The journalist, a British citizen, arrived in Morocco on September 25 to cover the Women in Africa summit in Marrakesh, according to news reports. On September 27, he travelled to al-Hoceima in Rif to interview activists in Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, independent journalist Imad Stitou, who spoke to his colleague before the arrest, told CPJ via email, an account confirmed in news reports. Dehghan was interviewing local activists at the time of his arrest, one of those activists, El Mortada Iamrachen, told the French language local news website Tel Quel.
CPJ was unable to determine how authorities transported Dehghan 364 miles from al-Hoceima to Casablanca.
The Guardian released a statement yesterday confirming that Dehghan arrived safely in the United Kingdom, and that the paper is "looking into the circumstances with more detail," the journalist posted on Twitter. The statement did not provide any information about the reasons behind the journalist's expulsion.
The Guardian told CPJ in an email that it had nothing to add to its statement.
Government spokesman Mustapha Khalfi did not immediately respond to CPJ's email requesting comment. Tel Quel cited an unnamed Moroccan government official as saying that authorities deported the journalist because he failed to obtain required credentials.
In July, Moroccan authorities arrested and deported José Luis Navazo, director of the Spanish publication El Correo Diplomatico and a reporter for the site Fernando Sanz, while reporting on Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, CPJ documented at the time. Authorities also deported Djamel Alilat, a reporter for the daily Algerian newspaper Al-Watan, after he covered protests in Al-Nador in June, also in the Rif region, according to media reports.
Northern Morocco has been the site of protests since October 2016, when a fishmonger was crushed to death inside a garbage truck while trying to retrieve fish that police had confiscated from him, according to news reports.