February 15, 2012 | By Jillian York

Moroccan Activist's Arrest Signals Crackdown on Speech

News emerged from Morocco last week that 18-year-old Walid Bahomane was sent to a juvenile facility to await trial on charges of “defaming Morocco's sacred values” for a Facebook post about the country's monarch. There is now news that yet another young Moroccan is in trouble for online comments about the king.

As the Washington Post reports, a Moroccan court sentenced 25-year-old Abdelsamad Haydour in the city of Taza for “violating the sacred values” of the North African monarchy after posting a YouTube video in which he accused King Mohammed VI of oppressing the Moroccan people, calling the monarch "a dog, a dictator and a murderer."

The country's press law criminalizes "defaming" the monarchy and challenging Morocco's claim to Western Sahara. Over the years, a handful of bloggers and social media users have been charged in Morocco for crossing the country's red lines, however the arrests had been few and far between, with most cases leading to a pardon. Furthermore, the Moroccan Internet is largely uncensored. The proximity of these two cases coupled with reports from activists that no lawyer agreed to defend Haydour, indicates a serious new crackdown on speech in the kingdom.

EFF is disappointed to see these blatant and intensified crack downs on free speech, especially in light of last year's reforms to the Moroccan Constitution following its massive country-wide protests. The right to free expression is essential to a functional democracy and Moroccan efforts to silence people's speech online undermines the legitimacy of their recent constitutional amendmenets. We call on Moroccan authorities to immediately drop the charges against Bahomane and release Haydour, and to discontinue these politically regressive policies.


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