Morocco’s Minister of Communication and Culture, Mohammed Al-A’araj, expressed his surprise, Tuesday, at the results of a study carried out by a Spanish non-governmental organization, that identified the decline in freedom of expression in cyberspace in the Kingdom this year.
Earlier, Laghones Teo, an official from the International Institute for Nonviolent Action, said while presenting her organization’s study in a press conference in Rabat, that freedom of expression in cyberspace in Morocco has significantly declined this year.
In a statement to Anadolu, Al-A’araj said “I am surprised by the content of the study. On the contrary, I think that freedom of expression is more and more reinforced in Morocco.”
He added: “Unfortunately, most of international organizations reports are unfair to Morocco. We have 5,000 websites in Morocco, and the government is preparing a decree to support digital press”.
In response to the organization’s accusations that the kingdom’s authorities are “prosecuting journalists,” the minister said: “According to the official lists of the professional card holders of the press, we have one journalist (referring to Hamid Al-Mahdawi, who was sentenced today to one year in prison), against whom legal action has been taken at the criminal court, there are no other cases.”
According to the Spanish organization official, Morocco has recently witnessed “the arrests of a number of bloggers via Facebook, as well as the pursuit of some journalists following Hirak Rif in the province of Al-Hoceima”, in the north of the Kingdom.
“The Moroccan press and publication ordinance, which came into force a year ago, is an important achievement and a step forward compared to the old law adopted in 2002,” said Teo. “However, there are disparities between the implementation and the legislative texts.”
The study was sponsored by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), and under the project “House without walls: defending freedom of expression in cyberspace, protecting and supporting digital space”, which is implemented by Moroccan Association for Human Rights (NGO).
According to the study, that Anadolu had a look at, “(Moroccan) Journalists find it difficult to have access to information from official institutions. Although the information access law was prepared in 2011, it has not yet entered into force.”
For its part, the Moroccan government considers that access to information is one of the basic rights stipulated by the Constitution, which is reflected in the promulgation of a law that obliges public administrations to provide citizens with the information they need and to take measures in order to allow everyone to exercise this right.
Since October 2016, Al-Hoceima and a number of towns and villages in the Rif region have been witnessing constant protests demanding “development, de-marginalization and fighting corruption”.
The International Institute for Nonviolent Action is a Spanish non-governmental organization that prepares studies and reports in coordination with non-governmental organizations in a number of countries and with the support of international institutions.