Moroccan video blogger sentenced to 10 months in prison

A Moroccan court on August 18, 2017 sentenced video blogger Mohamed Taghra to 10 months in prison for criminal defamation after he published a report on local police corruption in the country’s central Souss-Massa region, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information and the Arab Bloggers Union reported.

Taghra, who publishes his work under the pseudonym Hamza Lhazin, was found guilty of “insulting and defaming” officials of the Royal Gendarmerie police, according to local media.

The charge is related to a YouTube video that features interviews with eyewitnesses who claim Royal Gendarmerie members forged a report for a traffic accident that resulted in a fatality. In the video, which was viewed over 50,000 times, Taghra said the Royal Gendarmerie took a bribe to forge the traffic report.

Police arrested Taghra on August 4 at his home in the town of Ouled Teima, according to news reports. Since his arrest, the video blogger has been held in the Ait Melloul prison, located approximately 20 miles southwest of Ouled Teima, according to a Facebook post from Taghra’s account. CPJ was unable to determine who was posting from Taghra’s account.

Starting in 2015, Taghra regularly posted about cases of alleged corruption in several towns in the Souss-Massa region on his social media accounts, and has drawn the ire of local officials in the past.

Moroccan government spokesperson Moustapha Khalfi did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via email.

In June 2016, security officials in the city of Taroudant, also in Souss-Massa, summoned Taghra for questioning after an education ministry official filed a defamation complaint against the blogger, according to news reports. The complaint came after Taghra accused officials of leaking high school exams in exchange for money, according to the reports. CPJ could not determine more details about the status of the 2016 complaint.

Members of Taghra’s family did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent over social media.