Bending the knee, jailing the blogger

Just when you thought it was safe to tip-toe back into the blogosphere, you hear the depressing news that Morocco has jailed a blogger for two years.

The person in question – Mohamed Erraji, a 29-year-old who blogs (Arabic only, and down when I tried it earlier!) about social issues in Morocco – is believed to be the first blogger to be convicted in Morocco for peacefully expressing their views online.

In this case he was apparently jailed for an article (translation here) he published on the independent Moroccan website Hespress. First he was held incommunicado for over two days then he was reportedly despatched to jail after a 10-minute trial without a lawyer.

And not only that, the “incriminating” material appears to have been some of his remarks – about how the king’s charitable work and behaviour is producing a “patronage economy” – that were deemed to have shown a  “lack of respect due to the King”. More on the case here and (from Amnesty) here.

Bloody hell!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I reckon that if most countries started jailing their bloggers for exhibiting signs of disrespect toward their country’s leaders – you’d have bulging prisons and social (and Internet) anarchy in a matter of weeks. Imagine bloggers getting sent down for stretches in Wormwood Scrubs for daring to mock Wills and Harry.

As blogger eatbees says, it’s straightforwardly a case of someone being jailed for having an opinion. To use Sun-speak – and sometimes it’s the only way! – ”It’s completely barmy!”

As ever, the fight back starts here. Our sparkly new protectthehuman.com site is featuring Erraji’s case and we’d encourage people to bookmark items about it, post comment and generally give vent to their well-considered feelings (outrage for example!?) on the case. Also, check out the Facebook group for him to get an extra sense of what people are saying.

Morocco has “form” in this area – remember the spoof Facebooker jailing case from earlier this year? – but the international climate is not exactly rosy either. Last week there was news that Thailand was shutting down 400 websites. And guess what? Three hundred and forty-four of them were getting the state axe because they were deemed insulting to the monarchy.

What is it with the Internet and royalty? Perhaps Prince Charles would like to issue a statement in defence of Internet freedom?

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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