New York, July 12, 2021 – In response to the July 9 sentencing of journalist Soulaiman Raissouni to five years in prison on sexual assault charges, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“Moroccan authorities should release journalist Soulaiman Raissouni immediately and refrain from filing trumped-up sexual assault charges against members of the press,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Authorities must ensure that Raissouni receives the medical treatment he needs and that the country’s sexual assault laws will not be used as political tools to crush criticism.”
On July 9, the Casablanca Court of Appeals convicted Raissouni, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Akhbar al-Youm, of sexual assault and sentenced him to prison and a fine of 100,000 dirhams ($11,205), according to news reports.
Since 2018, Morocco has repeatedly used sex crime allegations to target journalists; as of December 1, 2020, there were three journalists imprisoned in the country for alleged sex crimes, according to CPJ’s latest prison census and research into those allegations. Raissouni has said that the charges against him are “fabricated” due to his work, according to those reports.
Raissouni did not attend the trial due to his deteriorating health as a result of a hunger strike he has engaged in since April, according to those reports and a local press freedom advocate who is following the case and spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
Moroccan authorities arrested Raissouni on May 22, 2020, after Adam Muhammed, a Moroccan LGBT activist, filed a complaint alleging that Raissouni had sexually assaulted him in 2018, according to CPJ’s research.