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Morocco: Two opposition parties reject social media draft law

Logos of popular social media apps on 12 January 2020 [Raşit Aydoğan/Anadolu Agency]
Logos of popular social media apps on 12 January 2020 [Raşit Aydoğan/Anadolu Agency]

Two Moroccan opposition parties have announced their rejection of a government-approved draft law regulating the use of social media websites in the kingdom.

The authorities have affirmed that the content of the draft law that is being circulated had previously been rejected by members of the government, which means that it is not final, and any discussion about it remains premature.

The leaks of some articles of the draft law, which the government ratified on 19 March, sparked outrage over the harsh penalties it contained.

The secretary-general of the opposition Authenticity and Modernity Party, Abdellatif Ouahbi, attacked the government of Saadeddine Othmani, accusing it of taking advantage of: "The abhorrent health conditions caused by coronavirus to pass shocking human rights regressions."

"As a modernist national party, the Authenticity and Modernity Party fully rejects and strongly denounces everything that might harm the right gains and freedoms that the country achieved over the decades," announced Ouahbi in a statement published on his party's website on Tuesday.

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He considered that putting forward the draft law at this time would: "Affect and disturb the national unity and mobilisation, amid the exceptional circumstances that the country is witnessing in the face of the coronavirus pandemic."

The secretary-general of the opposition Party of Progress and Socialism, Nabil Benabdallah, asserted that the leaking of the draft law regulating the use of social media websites: "Is irresponsible, given the current conditions that require cohesion, national unity and comprehensive mobilisation with the aim of fighting the coronavirus."

Benabdallah stressed that his party: "Will strongly reject the draft law regulating the use of social media websites, in case it turned out that the leaked text is the finalised text, while making efforts to review the articles, especially as they do not go in line with the space of the freedoms that citizens seek."

Commenting on the widespread controversy, Mustafa Ramid, minister of State for Human Rights and Relations with Parliament, announced on Facebook that the content being circulated had previously been rejected by some government members.

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"The report issued by the government council, after the holding of the meeting, which discussed a draft law on the use of social media on 19 March, 2020, stated that the council approved the draft provided that it be reviewed, in light of the comments of the ministers, by a technical committee and then by a ministerial committee," indicated Ramid.

He added that: "This means that the final version of the draft is the version that would be submitted to Parliament, and it is the version that can be discussed and accepted or rejected."

Ramid also pointed out that: "The content which is currently being circulated had previously been rejected by some government members, and therefore it remains tentative, and any discussion of specific articles remains premature."

According to leaks that have sparked widespread controversy in the kingdom, Article 14 of the draft law states that whoever deliberately calls to boycott some products, goods, or services, or publicly incites it, through social media or open broadcast networks, is punishable by imprisonment from six months to three years, and a fine of between $530 and $5,300, or only one of these two penalties.

The leaked draft law also stipulates that whoever shares online content that includes fake news that casts doubt on the quality and safety of some products and goods and introduces them as posing a threat and danger to public health and environmental security, shall be punished with imprisonment from six months to three years and a fine of around $213 to $2,130.

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