Moroccan policemen
Moroccan police officers patrol the streets in the capital Rabat in March 2020. Authorities briefly detained journalists Abdellatif al-Hamamouchi and Abdelmjid Amyay on October 4 and 5, 2023, respectively. (AFP/Fadel Senna)

Moroccan authorities briefly arrest journalist Abdelmjid Amyay, ban Abdellatif al-Hamamouchi from traveling

On October 5, 2023, Moroccan police arrested journalist Abdelmjid Amyay, director of local independent news website Chams Post, at a coffee shop in the northeastern city of Oujda and detained him for one night for sharing articles about corruption in the city on his personal Facebook page, according to news reports.

The following day, authorities charged Amyay with “publishing false news on social media for defamation purposes” and “insulting a state official for doing their job,” before releasing him on bail, pending investigation, according to news reports and a lawyer on the journalist’s defense team, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

Amyay’s next hearing is scheduled for October 19, according to the lawyer and Imad Stitou, a local journalist and press freedom advocate, who is following the case and who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.

Amyay, who covers local news for Chams Post, previously worked as a correspondent for the now-closed local newspaper and website Akhabr al-Youm, according to those sources and CPJ’s review of his work.

In a separate incident on October 4, authorities arrested freelance journalist Abdellatif al-Hamamouchi at the Casablanca international airport as he boarded a flight to Sarajevo to attend a conference on democratic transitions, according to news reports and al-Hamamouchi, who told CPJ via messaging app.

Authorities released al-Hamamouchi after interrogating him for an hour about the conference and his relationship to former Tunisian president Moncef Mazrouki, who had invited the journalist to participate in the conference. Then they banned him from traveling to Sarajevo on the basis that he did not have a visa, even though, as a multi-entry U.S. visa holder, he has the right to enter Bosnia and Herzegovina without a visa, according to those sources, and the Bosnian visa policy.

Al-Hamamouchi told CPJ that he believed that authorities knew that he was going to attend the conference and wanted to stop him from participating.

Al-Hamamouchi has contributed to many news outlets, including regional news website Al-Araby, Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera, as well as the website of the U.S.-based nonprofit Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he provided analysis on the political climate in Morocco in the absence of Morocco’s King Mohamed VI from the local public sphere, according to CPJ’s review of his work.

The Moroccan Ministry of Interior did not respond to CPJ’s emails for comment.

On September 20, Moroccan authorities arrested and expelled French journalists Quentin Müller and Thérèse Di Campo for their reporting on the king’s rule.

On December 1, 2022, three journalists were imprisoned in Morocco, when CPJ conducted its most recent annual prison census.