New York, December 29, 2020 – Moroccan authorities must immediately release journalist and press freedom advocate Maati Monjib, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Security forces arrested Monjib, a contributor to the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi as well as other outlets, today at a restaurant in the capital Rabat, according to a Facebook post by independent journalist and Moroccan Association for Human Rights member Abdellatif El Hamamouchi and independent Moroccan news site Le Desk.
“The Moroccan government appears to be banking on the world failing to notice its continued harassment of journalists over a holiday week,” said CPJ Senior Middle East and North Africa Researcher Justin Shilad. “Moroccan authorities must immediately release Monjib and end their detention and surveillance of journalists.”
Yesterday evening, security forces were lingering outside of Monjib’s home, according to independent journalist Imad Stitou, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app, citing sources close to Monjib. Stitou, who told CPJ he spoke to an eyewitness of the arrest, said that plainclothes security forces arrived in two cars to arrest Monjib shortly after he sat down to lunch at the restaurant today. According to independent Moroccan news site Hespress, a judge ordered Monjib transferred to prison while authorities investigate him for money laundering.
According to Stitou, authorities had opened the money laundering investigation several weeks ago. CPJ has not been able to determine if Monjib has been formally charged.
CPJ was unable to determine what, if any, of Monjib’s recent writing may have drawn the attention of authorities, though the journalist has faced harassment in the past.
In 2019, CPJ interviewed Monjib after Amnesty International reported that he was targeted with an attempt to install Pegasus spyware on his phone. Monjib, who is also an academic, told CPJ last year that he believes Moroccan authorities target him because of his “outspoken” and truthful writing about powerful Moroccan figures, and the fact that he has published in English. In 2015, Monjib was put on trial for endangering state security, he told CPJ in the 2019 interview. In September 2020, Human Rights Watch reported that the trial was postponed and is still pending.
CPJ sent a message through the Moroccan government’s official website, as well as to an email for the General Directorate for National Security, requesting comment from a government spokesperson, but did not immediately receive a response.