Journalist and activist Omar Radi waits outside court in Casablanca, Morocco, on March 12, 2020.
Investigative journalist Omar Radi outside a court in Casablanca, Morocco, on March 12, 2020. Radi was returned to prison from hospital on October 13, 2023, two days after surgery for multiple fractures to his arm. (Reuters/Youssef Boudlal)

Morocco denies jailed journalist Omar Radi post-surgical care in hospital

New York, October 17, 2023—Moroccan authorities must immediately release journalist Omar Radi, and transfer him to a hospital to recover from surgery on a broken arm, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Radi—who is serving a six-year jail term—broke his right arm in prison in Tiflet and was transferred to a hospital in the capital Rabat, about 50km west, to undergo surgery for multiple fractures, according to news reports, and a family member who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

On Friday, Radi was returned to his overcrowded prison cell without explanation, according to the family member, adding that the investigative journalist was supposed to stay in the hospital for at least three weeks to monitor his recovery.

“The abrupt transfer of imprisoned journalist Omar Radi from the hospital, where he’s been recovering after surgery, to his overcrowded cell in Tiflet prison, is cruel and inhumane,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program coordinator in Washington, D.C. “Moroccan authorities must immediately release Radi and transfer him to a hospital where he can continue his recovery.”

Radi’s relative said prison authorities told the family that the journalist broke his arm while arm-wrestling his cellmates, but they could not confirm what had happened, and did not feel Radi could speak freely when his family visited him in the hospital.

Radi’s family have repeatedly expressed concerns about his health as he has asthma and Crohn’s disease and protested over his 2022 transfer to Tiflet from Casablanca, where he was receiving treatment for his digestive condition and visits from family based in the city.

Authorities said Radi was moved because of overcrowding and prison medical staff would monitor his health.

In Casablanca’s Oukacha prison, Radi was held in solitary confinement, which had been his request since he was detained, but in Tiflet he was in an overcrowded cell without ventilation that was infested with cockroaches and vermin, according to the family member.

After his arrest in 2020, Radi was given a six-year prison sentence in 2021 for undermining state security and sexual assault. Press freedom advocates in Morocco told CPJ they believed the charges were unfounded and in retaliation for his investigative work.

When CPJ conducted its most recent annual prison census on December 1, 2022, three journalists— including Radi—were imprisoned in Morocco.

CPJ’s emails to Morocco’s Ministry of Interior for comment did not receive any response.