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In show of solidarity, Egyptian journalists demand release of detained Moroccan editor

Ali Anouzla
Ali Anouzla

More than 60 Egyptian journalists and media professionals released a statement on 18 September 2013 calling for the release of the prominent Moroccan journalist Ali Anouzla, editor of the Arabic news website Lakome, who was arrested by Moroccan police on 17 September. The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) calls on the Moroccan authorities to release Anouzla and stop their campaign of harassment against him. ANHRI also calls on all authorities in the Arab world to support public freedoms, especially press freedom and freedom of expression, as it is the only path towards progress.

The statement by Egyptian journalists is reprinted below:

Freedom to the Knight of the Pen ... Freedom to Ali Anouzla

We, the undersigned Egyptian journalists, were shocked by the news of the arrest of Moroccan journalist Ali Anouzla, director of the Arabic-language information website Lakome.

The Moroccan authorities detained Anouzla on 17 September after storming his house. The authorities also stormed Lakome's headquarters and confiscated all the computers and laptops.

The Public Prosecution's statement regarding his arrest justified it by noting that he posted a video message from AlQaeda's North Africa wing on the news site, therefore inciting terrorism. The accusation is a weak one because the article that accompanied the video was about Al-Qaeda's activities and doesn't, in any way, insinuate a pro-AlQaeda bias on the part of the news website.

Editor of the French version of the website Aboubakr Jamaï had earlier stated that he was the one who published the video on the website following that by noting how posting a video about an incident or a group doesn't mean the website agrees with the message.

Anouzla's detention is just the latest episode in the ongoing oppression and prosecutions he's been subjected to in recent years. In 2009, Anouzla was referred to the investigations unit after former Libyan president, Mouammar Al-Gaddafi filed a complaint against him regarding his article on how Gaddafi rose to power, in which he described it as a coup.

Anouzla was tried in the same year on account of writing about the health conditions of Morocco's king. In addition, there were restrictions imposed on the newspaper Al-Jareeda Al-Oula, which he used to head and which has since been closed down, despite it being one of the most important Moroccan newspapers.

We demand the release of the journalist Ali Anouzla immediately and unconditionally, and we stress that all his rights as a journalist, including his access to sources of information, must be respected.

The detention of Anouzla because of his work is a flagrant violation of press freedom and freedom of opinion and expression. Anouzla always defended these freedoms and is now paying the price.

The storming of the news site's headquarters is clear evidence of the authorities disregard for press freedom. Anouzla has supported freedom of the press in Morocco and other Arab countries and has stood by and defended journalists whose rights were violated throughout his career, therefore, we announce our solidarity with him.

We demand his release and an end to farcical investigations. The only way to help progress our countries is to support freedom of the press, free expression, and freedom of information.

For a list of the signatories, click here.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • Moroccan editor arrested for publishing link to video

    "Anouzla's publication was singled out for sharing what was readily available media content," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "The Moroccan authorities, like many before them, are using fighting terrorism as a tool to go after critical journalists."

  • Website editor held for posting AQIM video

    “It is intolerable that a journalist should be prosecuted for keeping the public informed and that computers should be seized from the Lakome editorial offices," said the free press organisation. “If proceedings are taken against him, we shall be paying close attention to ensure the investigation scrupulously adheres to the principles of independent inquiry in a case in which freedom of expression is clearly at stake.”

  • Critical Moroccan editor arrested for linking to YouTube video

    On September 18, more than two hundred individuals participated in a demonstration in front of the judicial police brigade calling for freedom of expression and freedom for Ali Anouzla. EFF views Anouzla’s arrest as yet another attempt by the Moroccan government to silence their critics. We urge authorities to allow Anouzla immediate access to his lawyers, and discourage them from filing charges against him.

  • Morocco: Detention for article about jihadist video threatens reporting on extremism

    “Ali Anouzla, like journalists around the world, considers it his job to cover what al-Qaeda and its affiliates say and do,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “When authorities confuse reporting with endorsing, they scare off other journalists who are legitimately reporting on such movements.”

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