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A Friend in Trouble for Speaking Out

News reports indicate that an old blogger/activist friend, Hicham Almiraat, has been accused in the Moroccan justice system of a charge that translates roughly as “receiving foreign money for activities that undermine people’s faith in the government.” He will go on trial on November 19 in Rabat, Morocco’s capital, along with several other activists for political and journalistic rights, and the charge carries the possibility of five years in prison. (Usually in Moroccan political trials like this one, if someone is charged we can assume a conviction.) The root cause of his indictment is apparently a report put out by the Moroccan Association for Digital Rights, of which he is president, in conjunction with the British group Privacy International, called Their Eyes on Me. This report details the Moroccan government’s purchase of internet spying software from Western companies, and its effect on Moroccan activists who came forward to tell their stories. I’m not sure what we can do in solidarity with my friend, but at least download and read the report if you’re interested.

For background on the case, here is an article describing the charges and upcoming trial, and here are several earlier articles dealing with the digital spying report and the subsequent harrassment of activists by the Moroccan state: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. However, all of these articles are in French. In summary, it seems that the Moroccan Interior Minister reacted by denying that any such internet spying takes place, and even went so far as to press charges in court accusing the privacy activists of defamation! So Hicham’s upcoming trial on criminal charges is only the latest development in an ongoing backlash against the activists since the release of their report this past April.

I am sad to see that the so-called Arab Spring, known in Morocco as the February 20 Movement, has ended up accomplishing so little in terms of real, durable improvements to freedom of expression in Morocco. This type of harassment of activists for speaking out (and defending the rights of all Moroccans) is unfortunately the kind of thing one might have expected ten or fifteen years ago — so what has changed?


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