Morocco: Bloggers Rally Behind Fouad Mourtada

Moroccan media and bloggers have rallied behind Fouad Mourtada since the 26 year-old's arrest earlier this month.

Some media sources have called Mourtada “a Martyr of the Net” and others have described the case as a “media lynching” pushed by “les SAR et consorts” [all those bearing the title “Son Altesse Royale” (His/Her Royal Highness) and consorts]. Still others have proclaimed the only way the Moroccan government could justify its five-year sentence would be through charges of trying to defraud the Moroccan Treasury or targeting state security.

Francophone bloggers write that Mourtada's arrest reveals the tensions between modern Morocco and Morocco of the Middle Ages.

Stephan Carville, a French free-lance journalist splitting his time between Casablanca and Paris writes that this event provides further proof of the wide cultural and social gap between “East” and “West” on his blog:

La plaisanterie avec la famille royale a ses limites, comme celle de caricaturer le prophète. On touche ainsi du doigt une civilisation qui nous semble à des années lumières de notre culture, celle qui nous donne le droit de critiquer Sarkozy, ou de balancer dans la presse en ligne que Nicolas aurait envoyé un SMS à son ex Cécilia avant de se marier avec Carla. On mesure ainsi le gouffre qui sépare les deux pays. Il est insupportable. L'affaire Fouad Mourtada ne grandit pas encore un soi-disant “Maroc en mouvement” de façade qui use de pratiques et comportements dignes du Moyen-Age.

Joking around with the royal family has its limits, as does caricaturing the Prophet. This is how we experience first-hand a civilization which seems to be light years from our own culture, a culture that gives us the right to criticize Sarkozy, or to leak to the online press that Nicolas might have sent an SMS to his ex [wife] Cecilia before marrying Carla [Bruni]. From this we can measure the gulf that divides our two countries. This cannot be tolerated. The Fouad Mourtada Affair has not yet sprouted a so-called “Morocco in Movement” with a facade that makes use of practices and customs worthy of the Middle Ages.

On the blog Culture Maroc, the author decries the Moroccan government's response to Fouad's actions:

Je ne vais pas refaire l'histoire mais tout le monde est au courant de ce qui arrive à Fouad Mourtada. Ce jeune marocain de 26 ans, ingénieur en informatique, arrêté à Casablanca le mardi 5 février.

La raison de cette arrestation ? Une blague, une idée insouciante sans arrière pensé aucune. Bref une connerie comme en fait tous. Enfin, une connerie pour le Maroc seulement.

En effet, Fouad a simplement crée un profil sur le réseau social du moment : Facebook. Ce profil était un faux du prince Moulay Rachid. Une personnalité donc.

Pour information, il existe des dizaines de profils de personnalités sur Facebook, de Sarkozy à Bush en passant par….Mohamed VI. Hey oui!

Fouad risque 5 ans de prison. 5 ans! De quoi ruiner la vie d'un homme pour toujours.

On en revient à l'éternel problème : Le Maroc moderne Vs le Maroc du Moyen âge.

I'm not going to repeat the story but everyone knows what happened to Fouad Mourtada. This 26 year-old Moroccan engineer, arrested February 5th in Casablanca.

The reason for this arrest? A joke, a thoughtless idea with no ulterior motives. Really just the same kind of stupid stuff we all do. Or at least, only stupid for Morocco.

In fact, Fouad simply created a profile on the popular social website Facebook. It was a fake profile for the prince Moulay Rachid. So, a celebrity.

For your information, there are dozens of celebrity profiles on Faceback, from [Nicolas] Sarkozy to Bush to…Mohamed VI [the king of Morocco]. That's right!

Fouad is facing 5 years in prison. 5 years! Enough to permanently ruin a man's life.

It always comes back to the same eternal problem: Modern Morocco vs. the Morocco of the Middle Ages.

Larbi, author of the blog Comme une bouteille jetée à la mer!, views Fouad's trial as a unique opportunity for the Moroccan judicial system not to kowtow to the Moroccan regime's policy of harsh sentences when it comes to the “sacrality” of the King and company:

Un procès surréaliste dans son objet (création de faux profil sur Facebook), abusif dans son déroulement (placement sous détention provisoire) et inéquitable par ses parties prenantes (un simple citoyen et un Prince) . Il crée de surcroît un précédent inacceptable : On pourrait désormais tenir à merci n’importe quel internaute et lui réserver n’importe quel sort. Dans un Etat qui se respecte le procès de Fouad ne devrait même pas avoir lieu.

Bien entendu, il incombe au juge seul d’apprécier les faits et de statuer, mais il est des raisons de s’inquiéter. Faut-il rappeler ici que toutes les affaires judiciaires relatives aux délits de presse et d’opinion ou aux délits d’atteinte à la sacralité de la famille royale se sont systématiquement soldés par des condamnations et que jamais aucune relaxe n’ait été prononcée ? Faut-il rappeler ici l’excès de zèle des tribunaux dès qu’il s’agit du Roi et son entourage ?

Le Tribunal de grande instance de Casablanca peut faire l’Histoire en brisant cette série de jugements arbitraires. Le juge peut entrer dans l’Histoire en officiant en arbitre indépendant de toute pression, en ne cédant à aucune crainte , en ne redoutant nulle colère, en disant la loi dans la sincérité de sa conscience, en homme d’ honneur et de dignité. Il ne peut alors qu’acquitter Fouad et clore ce triste et insupportable chapitre judiciaire.

Le Tribunal de grande instance de Casablanca a une occasion unique : en rendant justice à Fouad il peut, ne serait-ce qu’une seule fois, donner raison de ne pas désespérer de la justice du Maroc et des juges du Maroc.

A trial surreal in its goal (creation of a fake Facebook profile), abusive in the way [the process] has unfolded (detention pending trial) and unbalanced in terms of the parties concerned (a simple citizen and a Prince). Moreover, it is creating an unacceptable precedent: anyone internet user can be held at the mercy [of the state] and be dealt any kind of fate. In a self-respecting country Fouad's trial shouldn't even be happening.

Of course, it's all up to the judge to appraise the facts and to adjudicate, but there are reasons for worry. Need I remind you that in this country all judiciary cases relating to infractions by the media or personal opinion or that sully the sacredness of the royal family are systematically condemned and there has never been an acquittal? Need I remind you of the [Moroccan] courts’ zealousness as soon as the King and his entourage are concerned?

Casablanca's Tribunal of First Instance [E.U.; “State Court” or similar U.S.] could make history by breaking with this series of arbitrary judgements. The judge could go down in history by acting as an arbitrator, independent of all pressure, by not giving in to any fear, by not dreading any anger, by stipulating the law with sincerity and conscience, as a man of honor and dignity. Then, he could not but acquit Fouad and close this sad and disgraceful chapter of judiciary history.

Casablanca's court has a unique opportunity: by delivering justice to Fouad it can, if only this once, give a reason not to lose faith in Moroccan justice and Moroccan judges.


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