New York, July 19, 2021 – In response to a Casablanca court’s decision today to sentence Moroccan investigative journalist Omar Radi to six years in prison and journalist Imad Stitou to six months, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“We strongly condemn the sentencing today in Morocco of journalists Imad Stitou and Omar Radi, and call on authorities not to contest their appeals,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Independent journalists in the country are repeatedly harassed and slapped with absurd charges, and Moroccan authorities are not fooling anyone with this retaliatory judicial sham. Radi should be immediately freed.”
The court convicted Radi, a reporter for independent news website Le Desk, of sexual assault and undermining state security through espionage and illegally receiving foreign funding, and sentenced him to six years in prison, according to news reports and a source familiar with the situation, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
The court also convicted Stitou, a freelance journalist who formerly reported for Le Desk, with complicity in that alleged sexual assault, and issued him a one-year prison sentence, but suspended six months of that sentence, according to those sources, which said that both journalists plan to appeal the verdicts.
Stitou is free pending his appeal, but Radi has been detained since July 2020, according to those sources and CPJ research.
Authorities first summoned Radi for questioning on June 25, 2020, in relation to espionage charges, and then charged him with sexual assault and arrested him on July 29, as CPJ documented. Today, investigative journalism group Forbidden Stories and other media outlets reported that at least 180 journalists around the world, including Radi, were targeted by surveillance spyware, according to news reports.
Since 2018, Moroccan authorities have filed sex crimes charges against multiple independent journalists in the country in an effort to target them for their reporting, according to CPJ research. On July 9, a court sentenced journalist Soulaiman Raissouni to five years in prison for alleged sexual assault, as CPJ documented at the time.
In a September statement, the local women’s rights group Khmissa expressed concern over the instrumentalization of women’s issues in legal cases against independent journalists.