Journalists and activists were using StoryMaker storytelling app
‘The trial of these journalists is a worrying test case for press freedom in Morocco’ - Magdalena Mughrabi
Amnesty International is calling on the Moroccan authorities to drop charges against seven people who are due to go on trial tomorrow for charges related to their part in running a training course for citizen journalists in the capital Rabat.
The training had utilised the phone app “StoryMaker”, a secure storytelling app developed by Free Press Unlimited, the Guardian Project and Small World News, software which enables citizen journalists to publish content anonymously.
Free Press Unlimited recently reported that its request to meet the Moroccan authorities to explain its work and the StoryMaker app was left unanswered, and the organisation is calling on the Moroccan authorities to drop charges against the seven defendants.
Five of the defendants - including historian Maati Monjib - are accused of “threatening the internal security of the state” through “propaganda” that may threaten “the loyalty that citizens owe to the State and institutions of the Moroccan people” under Article 206 of the Penal Code, according to official court papers. They could be imprisoned for up to five years if found guilty. Maati Monjib also faces a second charge of “fraud”. The remaining two defendants - journalists Maria Moukrim and Rachid Tarik - are being tried for “receiving foreign funding without notifying the General Secretariat of the government.”
Several defendants are also former supporters or members of the 20 February Movement, Morocco’s peaceful pro-democracy and anti-corruption protest movement that emerged in 2011 in the context of popular uprisings in the region.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Magdalena Mughrabi said:
“The trial of these journalists is a worrying test case for press freedom in Morocco.
“The accusations that journalists and citizens reporting freely in their country are compromising state security, and the risk that they may be imprisoned, are deeply alarming.”
Defendants in the trial
Maati Monjib, 54, is a historian and founder of the Ibn Rochd Center for Studies and Communication. He is president of the NGO Freedom Now and a member of the Moroccan Association for Investigative Journalism (AMJI), and is a regular commentator on Moroccan politics in international media. It is thought he is a key figure targeted in this prosecution.
Abdessamad Ait Aicha (known as Samad Iach), 31, is a journalist and former employee at the Ibn Rochd Center for Studies and Communication, and an AMJI member.
Hicham Mansouri, 35, is a journalist and former AMJI employee, recently released from prison after serving a ten-month sentence in what Amnesty fears was a politically-motivated conviction.
Hicham Khreibchi (known as Hicham Al-Miraat), 39, is a medical doctor, founder and former president of the Digital Rights Association, as well as a former advocacy director for Global Voices.
Mohamed Sber, 44, is president of the Moroccan Association for the Education of Youth.
Maria Moukrim, 39, is a journalist a former AMJI president.
Rachid Tarik, 62, is a retired journalist and AMJI president