Supporters in 2023 protest the continued imprisonment of journalists Soulaiman Raissouni (shown in banner at left) and Omar Radi. (Screenshot: CPJ/Africanews)

Morocco prison confiscates journalist’s letter to wife, prompting hunger strike

New York, March 4, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Moroccan prison authorities’ decision to prevent imprisoned journalist Soulaiman Raissouni from sending a letter to his wife and urgently calls for his immediate release.

After authorities in the Ain Borja prison confiscated and withheld a letter meant for his wife, Raissouni, editor-in-chief of independent newspaper Akhbar al-Youm, began a hunger strike on Thursday, February 29, according to a Facebook post by Kholoud Mokhtari, Raissouni’s wife. In a statement issued to local news outlets, prison authorities said the hunger strike was incited by “foreign entities.”

“We are shocked by Ain Borja prison authorities’ continuous harassment of imprisoned journalist Soulaiman Raissouni, who is being denied his lawful right to send letters, which prompted him to start a hunger strike in protest,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour from Washington, D.C. “Moroccan authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Raissouni, especially since his last hunger strike gravely deteriorated his health.”

Raissouni was arrested on May 22, 2020, and is currently serving a five-year prison sentence on sexual assault charges. Since 2018, Morocco has repeatedly used sex crime allegations to target journalists; as of December 1, 2023, three journalists were imprisoned in the country for alleged sex crimes, according to CPJ’s most recent prison census.

On April 8, 2021, before his sentencing, Raissouni began a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment that lasted 122 days. As a result, the journalist lost more than 66 pounds, developed chronic hypertension, lost consciousness several times, and could no longer move his right leg freely. 

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