Since July 16, more than 100 journalists have broadcast a manifesto in Morocco against the proliferation of media that “insult, slander and defame” professionals and activists whose voices annoy people “close to power”. The signatories appeal to the authorities to stop these campaigns, which, according to them, are now baited with the reporter Omar Radi, 33, and the columnist Suleimán Raisuni, 47.
The writing states in its first paragraph: “Every time the authorities act judicially against a critical voice, certain digital sites and newspapers have rushed to write defamatory articles, without any professional ethics, even in violation of the laws that regulate the press in Morocco.”
Omar Radi, one of the journalists cited in the manifesto as a victim of the slander campaigns, grabbed the pages of 17 international media on June 21, including The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde and the country. All of them reported on an Amnesty International (AI) report, according to which the journalist’s mobile phone was spied on through Pegasus, a powerful program developed by the Israeli company NSO, which supposedly can only be bought by governments in order to combat the crime.
Several days after the reports were published, the Moroccan government asked Amnesty International to present evidence against what it considers to be unfounded allegations. The NGO replied that it has evidence and that before spreading the information it requested the version of five government charges without obtaining any response.
In the midst of that controversy, Omar Radi has been summoned to the police station to be interrogated up to eight times since June 24, three days after the articles on the spyware program were published. The police investigation focuses on Radi’s alleged involvement in a revenue-raising issue related to foreign information services. However, Radi believes that the cause of this “cruelty” is due to the disclosure of the investigation that Amnesty launched on the espionage of his phone.
Meanwhile, various digital media report possible links between Radi and MI6, the British spy service. Both Omar Radi and many of his colleagues face with some humor what they consider to be a “surreal smear campaign.” But at the same time they denounce the media, police and judicial harassment.
The manifesto signed by more than 100 Moroccan journalists also mentions the case of Suleimán Raisuni, a star columnist for the Ajbar al Yaum newspaper. Raisuni has been in preventive detention since May 22, accused by the prosecution of attacking “modesty through violence and kidnapping.” Raisuni was detained after a gay activist denounced last May that the journalist had attempted to rape him two years ago, in late 2018. The columnist runs the risk of being sentenced to up to ten years in prison.
Journalist Hicham Mansouri, who sought refuge in France in 2016 after spending 10 months in prison in Morocco for complicity in adultery, has written in the international digital media OrientXXI that Raisuni made himself known for “his virulent editorials against the Palace and the secret information services ”. Mansouri cites an article from January 8, 2020 in which Raisuni criticized “the increasingly prominent role” of the head of the Information Services, Abdelatif Hamuchi, “and his role in the proliferation of defamation media.”
The protest “is a little late”
Mansouri assures this newspaper from France that the manifesto will be useful in raising public opinion. “I even think the manifesto is a little late. For years we have been trying to draw attention to these defamation media created by the secret services that constitute a threat against freedom of the press and against participation in public life. ”
The journalist estimates that there are almost a hundred of these digital media. “They publish them in several languages and each one adapts the message to a type of audience. There are also Facebook pages. The pace of publication and content are very similar. They seem to be written from the same text. There is no doubt that this is a well-organized job. ”
Mansouri asserts that, in addition to Omar Radi and Suleiman Raisuni, journalists who have been the target of smear campaigns in recent years include others such as Ali Anouzla, Houcine Majdoubi, Ali Lmrabet, Aboubakr Jamai, Ahmed Benchemsi or the intellectuals Aziz Nouaydi and Maâti Monjib. “A single media outlet has published 60 defamatory articles against Raisuni. And Maâti Monjib has been attacked in hundreds of articles. It has been the continuous target of defamatory media since 2014. Imagine anyone exposed almost daily to these continuous attacks for almost six years! ”, He points out.
One of the signatories to the manifesto is Mohamed Ezzouak, director of the website Yabiladi. “This phenomenon of defamatory campaigns,” he maintains, “has been going on for a few years. It appears and disappears in cycles. But we are in a very tense situation now. That is why we have said enough is enough. You can debate among journalists, you can criticize a colleague. But without reaching personal insult, defamation. The manifesto is not only addressed to other fellow journalists, but to the authorities. If any citizen has the right to be respected by the media, we journalists are also citizens. We are all equal before the law”.
On Monday, July 20, the journalist and activist Hamid el Mahdaui was released, who has spent three years in prison accused of not denouncing an “attempt to harm the internal security of the State”. The attempt consisted of a phone call from a resident of Amsterdam in the Al Hoceima protests. The rifero, to whom Mahdaui declared he had never taken seriously, expressed to Mahdaui his desire to put tanks in Morocco. The Mahdawi came out of prison raising his clenched fist with his children and his wife and criticizing the conditions of life inside the prison.